We must counter hate with love

Published 12:29 am Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The very sound of the name raises powerful images in our minds.

One of the enduring images for me came at the end of the Selma to Montgomery march on March 25, 1965. Some of us students from Talladega College stuffed ourselves into a Volkswagen Beetle and journeyed to St. Jude just outside the city of Montgomery to join the last leg of the march. We marched from St. Jude to Dexter Avenue, but we were so far down the street we could not see Dr. King’s facial features as he spoke. But I still have a powerful image of the moment.

My image is of Dr. King saying “How long?” and the crowd enthusiastically responding, “Not long!” It is a powerful image of call and response. It is a powerful image of hope voiced by 30,000 persons, each believing that it would not be long before every barrier to full freedom was swept away. He really believed, and we really believed!

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It was such a powerful moment with such powerful images that I raised it and other images in my speech at the Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at Bishop State Community College on Wednesday as I spoke to their theme, Keeping The Dream Alive.

I also raised the image of Dr. King’s persecution. No celebration is complete without a look at the mountains scaled. He was attacked from all sides. His life was always in danger from constant threats. The life of his wife and children were regularly threatened with death by various means. His home was bombed. He was framed and tried before a “court of justice.” He was jailed numerous times. He was stabbed in the heart and was just a “sneeze away from death.” He was always under FBI surveillance and severe harassment. The FBI, instead of protecting Dr. King, tried to ruin his reputation and force him to commit suicide. Finally he was shot down in cold blood as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis during his efforts to help the garbage men get a decent wage.

I see in my mind a man continuing to serve in spite of the attacks, threats, harassments, and attempted murder. It is an image of commitment and courage. I see a man seeking the best in us in spite of the realities. It is an image of hope and faith.

So much hate inhabits this world. So much violence wreaks havoc. So much oppression happens. So much injustice is on the loose. To keep the dream alive, we must counter hate with love, violence with non violence, oppression with freedom, injustice with justice and so forth. We must be the fulfillment of the dream in what we do, say and think. That way the dream will continue to live. However long I don’t know, but a lot longer than if we do nothing.