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January 15th, 2014

In Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Lillie Howard
Thirty Nine is an awful young age for one’s life to be over. But in reality Dr. King’s journey on this earth accomplished more than the average person living for 100 years. Dr. King was born January 15th, 1929 and his name was Michael but his father changed his name to Martin Luther in honor of the German reformer . Martin skipped both the ninth and eleventh grades and entered Morehouse College  in 1944 at the age of 15. In 1948 he earned a Sociology Degree from Morehouse . Even then he was trying to make a decision about whether he would go into medicine, law, or the ministry. Dr. King entered the seminary at Crozer, in Chester Pennsylvania in the early 1950’s where there were 11 other black students at that time and he said “We’re going to change this nation.” In 1951 he was the valedictorian of his class. In 1953 he married Coretta Scott from which four children were eventually born.  In September of 1954 at the age of twenty-five, after completing work on his doctorate in systematic theology at Boston University, he was named pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This was four months after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision calling for the desegregation of schools. .The next year, (1955) 14-year-old Emmet Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi. Three months later Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. WOW! The stage was being set for the entrance of Dr. King to lead his people on the road to freedom. Dr. King was a child of destiny chosen by God for this particular point and time.

On December 5th,1955, three months after Rosa Parks being arrested , Dr. King was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association at the age of 26. The association orchestrated  a boycott of the bus system which lasted 382 days. In January, 1957 the Black ministers formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and elected Dr. King as its first president. In 1962 he led a nonviolent protest in Birmingham, AL that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. Dr. King also helped to organize the 1963 March On Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. There he established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

On October 14, 1964 Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through non violence. In 1965, Dr. King and the SCLC helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and the following year, he took the movement north to Chicago. In the final years of his life, Dr. King expanded his focus to include poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam.” In the months before his assassination Dr. King became increasingly concerned with the problem of economic inequality in America . He organized a Poor People’s campaign to focus on the issues, including an interracial Poor People’s March on Washington, and in March 1968 he traveled to Memphis, Tennessee in support of poorly treated African-American sanitation workers. On March 28, a worker’s protest march led by Dr. King ended in violence and the death of an African American teenager. Dr. King left the city but vowed to return in early April to lead the demonstration.

On April 3rd, 1968 Dr. King returned to Memphis to support a sanitation worker’s strike and on that evening Dr. King gave his last sermon, saying “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop...and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve been to the Promised Land, I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” The next day, on April 4th, one day after speaking those words,  while he was standing on the balcony outside his second story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, he was shot. A bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord and that was the end. So much done in such a short time. WOW!

On Saturday, January 18th at 1pm “Who is Jim Crow?” which is a film about the book entitled “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander will be shown at the Newburgh Free Library. In the film Ms. Alexander talks about her book “The New Jim Crow”, which sparked a nationwide movement to end mass incarceration and the racial caste system it has created. A discussion following the film will be led by Mr. Odell Winfield, founder of ENJAN (End the New Jim Crow Action Network.) and Rev. Steve Ruelke (Ecclesia Ministries) of Newburgh. This is part of a film series being sponsored by The Greater Newburgh Ministerial Assoc., ENJAN, Ecclesia Ministries of Newburgh, and the Newburgh Free Library. The film series is part of the library’s celebration of Black History month. Check with the library for the other upcoming films that will be shown as a part of the Black History celebration. In case of inclement weather the film will be shown on the following Saturday (the 25th). Let me end with this: Hopefully, in honor of Dr. King , the community will come out to view this very important film because Newburgh definitely has a large incarceration rate and the question is: What are we going to do about it? Let me leave you with these words of Dr. King: “There comes a time when one must take the position that it is neither safe nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because his conscience tells him it is right.”  This Mass Incarceration issue is one that I know  Dr. King  would be making one of his top priorities. Rise up people and get involved! I’m glad to be back because I’ve missed you and hopefully you’ve missed me too.

This is Lillie’s Point of View!

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