MLKing National Memorial

As I’ve noted recently, this month marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember the particulars of 4/4/1968 as much as I do 11/22/1963, for instance. I have recently elucidated about the importance of Dr. King in my social development.

I’ve only recently discovered a group that is “commemorating his life and work by creating a memorial in our nation’s capital. The Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial will honor his life and contributions to the world through non violent social change.”

There is a website, mlkmemorialnews.org, that includes videos, photos, banners, and an opportunity to donate money to the creation of the memorial.

“After many years of fund raising, the memorial is only $14 million away from its $120 million goal.”
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Poll Finds Tea Party Anger Rooted in Issues of Class (NYT, 4/14)

The fierce animosity that Tea Party supporters harbor toward Washington and President Obama in particular is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are
disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Why is this absolutely unsurprising?

Interestingly, Dr. King’s last efforts were not based on just racial equality, but on economic justice. But economic justice is like water on dry ground; it lifts ALL boats up.
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Democracy Now! spoke to the mayor of my hometown yesterday, Binghamton’s (NY) Matt Ryan. “He’s taken an unusual step to remind the city’s residents about the expanding costs of the wars. Early next week, the city of Binghamton plans to install a large digital ‘cost of war’ counter on the facade of City Hall. The counter will show that the residents of the city have already spent $138 million on the wars since 2001.” More here.

This reminds me that MLK’s opposition to the Vietnam war in 1967 was not exactly a popular move, either with the LBJ administration or with most civil rights leaders.
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I got an message from an old high school chum. (Why is it that certain people you remember instantly, and others are…who is that again?)
He wrote: “I can remember a speech you gave one day in an assembly. The idea being that racial equality had to do with even more than having a black person star in a deodorant commercial (which at the time was progress!) It made an impact that lasted…you never know what will, do you?”

Boy, I wish I could remember the context of that speech…

ROG

UNDERPLAYED VINYL: Free At Last

Underplayed Vinyl used to be a regular – monthly or so – feature of this blog until it somehow got waylaid. Part of it was not having a usable turntable, but that has since been rectified. The idea about Underplayed Vinyl is to talk about an album I own, but only an LP or 45 (or I suppose, a 78) that I own that I do not possess in digital form (CD or download).

Since it’s Martin Luther King’s birthday, the Monday holiday law notwithstanding, I thought I’d talk about an album of a couple of his speeches, plus an excerpt of his most famous address, Free at Last.

The album was issued 1968 on Gordy/Motown Records. Side 1 was the DRUM MAJOR INSTINCT SERMON, given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on February 4, 1968. You can read it here, but of course, you don’t get the elocution, the nuances of the voice. The sermon included Dr. King’s desired eulogy, part of which reads:

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain.

Side 2 contains I’VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN delivered at the Mason Temple, the Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before he died. That speech can be seen and heard here.

One of my favorite parts is after he was stabbed by a woman in Harlem, he got this letter from a girl in high school, which he read:
While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.

But the payoff of the address is the I’ve Been To The Mountain Top section. It is amazing that not only did it foretell his death, it showed a strong parallel between King and and the Biblical figure Moses:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen 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!

(Recently, CBS News Sunday Morning did a segment on Moses with Mo Rocca which is found within this document, which links the Liberty bell, the pilgrims, Superman and M.L. King.)

Finally, the album ends with excerpts from the I HAVE A DREAM speech, including the FREE AT LAST segment.

I don’t know exactly when I bought this album, though I’m sure it was before I went to college in 1971. these speeches, along with the Beyond Vietnam speech of April 4, 1967 were pivotal in my philosophical development. Thus, this was quite an important recording for me.

ROG

Walter Cronkite


I knew Walter Cronkite was going to die soon. Before the rash of celebrity deaths (McMahon, Fawcett, et al.), it was reported that he was gravely ill. And yet his pasing yesterday still saddens me.

For some reason, I always knew his birthday, November 4. I always how he felt when his 63rd birthday was the taking of the hostages in Iran.

I was aware of his reporting during World War II. But my first recollection was watching him on a history program called The Twentieth Century, which was on from the time I was four to the time I was eleven; my, I was a geeky kid. I was an avid news watcher, pretty much alternating between Cronkite on CBS and Huntley-Brinkley on NBC, until Walter eventually won out.

I have some specific recollections. While I didn’t see the now-famous announcement of JFK’s death in real time – I was at school – I’ve seen the footage so often that I feel that I did. I was watching CBS News for wall-to-wall coverage of the aftermath (Oswald being shot, the JFK funeral).

When Cronkite went to Viet Nam in early 1968, then came back and declared in an editorial on February 27 that the war “unwinable, LBJ knew he was sunk and declared his decision not to run for re-election a little more than a month later. It, along with Martin Luther King’s opposition to the war, also had a profound effect on my own view of the conflict, which, when I was 14, was vaguely, “It’s an American war and I’m an American”; by the time I was 15, this changed to “What ARE we fighting for?” Speaking of King, it was from Cronkite that I heard the awful news of April 4, 1968.

Cronkite was a great cheerleader for space exploration. I must admit not being totally sold on it. But his enthusiasm for it, which won him NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award three years ago, was so infectious that I was almost as excited as he with each new launch.

He was a hoot playing himself on the Mary Tyler Moore Show in February 1974.

After he retired as anchor in 1981, I always made a point of watching him in documentaries. Until recently, he was also host of the Kennedy Center Honors.

In this rash of celebrity deaths, I heard a lot about how people should feel a certain way because they didn’t “know” them personally. (Did we “know” JFK or King? Yet we mourned.) When you’ve let someone into your home through television (or music or whatever), you do feel that you’ve “known” them. Having let Walter Cronkite into my home for almost my entire life, now that I think of it, and in ways of great impact, I mourn his loss.

ROG

The King Holiday


Isn’t it convenient to always have your birthday on a Monday? (Well, it would be if ML King, Jr., like I do, took his birthday off.) For the record, his birthday was actually January 15 and he would have been 80 this year.

Who woulda thunk that Ronald Reagan would be the one to sign the holiday into law in 1983? It was first in 1986, but there was a lot of resistance, and it wasn’t observed in all 50 states, the Wikipedia notes, until 2000.

I was fascinated by the discussion before it became a holiday, as noted here:

“There were many who opposed the idea of holiday for Dr. King. America had only honored two individuals with national holidays – George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Many felt that there were other Americans that deserved a national holiday, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

“One barrier to the confirmation was the Senator from Georgia who had denounced Dr. King as a communist.

“Others feared the King holiday was meant as a way to make up to African-Americans for slavery. Other feared the cost of the holiday, with the extra overtime paid to federal workers who had to work on the holiday as well as millions to those federal employees who were paid for the day.

“Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics “I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination.”

The Holiday’s Campaign Song
OR LINK
As I pondered writing this piece, before looking up any sources, I was going to suggest that the King holiday WAS a sort of reparations for slavery and its aftermath. And then I discover it’s Bob Dole -BobDole! – who had already laid out an economic justification for the holiday.

There’s a lot out there about the significance of today in light of what’s going to happen tomorrow. Just Google king obama and you’ll know what I mean.

So I hope that today’s more than just a day off. The holiday’s become a day of community service; I believe the Obamas will be doing just that. Quiet reflection would also be OK; there are lots of books out there – here are three picture books recommended by Rebecca, e.g. Or you can go celebrate at an event. Quiet, loud – I don’t care.

One thing to check out, somewhat to my surprise, is the B.C. comic strip for January 18, 2009.

OR LINK

ROG

Remembering the living


Today is the anniversary of the death of John Lennon. I realize that, while I always mark his birth (October 9, 1940), I don’t always note his death (December 8, 1980), not just because the death was so tragic and senseless, but because I’d been operating on the assumption that it was somehow disrespectful to focus on death. One should focus on life! Though I do remember calling my friend since kindergarten Karen at 2 a.m. that night Also working at FantaCo the Sunday after, we closed the store for ten minutes in the middle of the afternoon for a time of silence, with some of the customers still inside (at their request).

Then I pondered: am I’m being unrealistic? Public figures, especially, come into one’s life generally after one is born. I remember November 22, 1963 but do I even KNOW John F. Kennedy’s birthday. Well, yes, it’s May 29, 1917, but only because I once blogged about it. (Aren’t blogs educational?)

Likewise, I’m convinced that the push for a Martin Luther King holiday was born, in part, by people who didn’t want April 4, 1968 to be his legacy but January 15, 1929, a/k/a the third Monday in January.

So, I suppose, instead of overthinking this, I should, in the words of one of Mr. Lennon’s colleagues, “let it be.”

THE Lennon song I think about today
The nice video
LINK
The not-so-nice video
LINK.

Odetta died last week. I have a grand double album of her music on something you kids may not recall, vinyl. This was one of my father’s true musical heroes, and her passing, in some way, makes his passing eight years ago, more real.
LINK

LINK

Forry Ackerman, who died a few days ago, was a huge part of my life at FantaCo, for we sold oodles of copies of the magazine he founded, Famous Monsters of Filmland. The earlier issues were classics, but the latter ones, most of which came out after he’d left the publication, were often reprints of previously published material.

It was so significant a publication to publisher Tom Skulan that three years after I left, FantaCo published the Famous Monsters Chronicles. Though a book rather than a magazine, Tom always considered it the last of the Chronicles series that started with the X-Men Chronicles a decade earlier. It’s out of print and apparently in demand based on the Mile High price listing.

I went to see the AIDS quilt last Wednesday. Not so incidentally, the program was cut from five days to four because of budget cuts. For the last three years, I had requested that the section featuring my old friend Vito Mastrogiovanni come to Albany. This year, it made it. There it was, a much more simple design than some of the others. There it was.

Seeing it, I thought I’d get emotional, but I did not. There it is. Until I started talking to one of the guides, a task I had done in previous years, talking about how we were in high school together, how we tried to end the Viet Nam war together, how we partied together. There it is. And then I did get just a little verklempt. There it is – Vito Mastrogiovanni 1951-1991. May 15, 1991, same good friend Karen, who was his best friend, noted when I called her that evening.

There it is.

ROG