by Cinque Brown
Most everybody in the world knows of me but very few people really know about me. I was assassinated but part of my message lives on. During my lifetime I had been wrongly imprisoned but that hasn't stopped the best of colleges, from asking me to come visit and speak.
Do you know who I am? To give you a hint, I will tell you some of the messages that I gave to the people. "What this government really advocates is socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor... Capitalism was built upon the exploitation and suffering of Africans enslaved (audience clapping) and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both Black and White, both here and overseas." I never left this concept, in fact earlier in my speech I said that "unemployment rages high in the Black community, but the bipartisan response instead is an Anti-Riot Bill, if unemployment were this high in the nation, we would have a depression greater than that of the 1940's..." (This is still true today). This led me to found the "Poor People's Campaign Movement" (PPCM) in 1968. This is the last major thing I did before I was murdered. There is still a firestorm of debate, over just who is responsible for my death? If you read my history you will know the answer to this question.
Do you remember when I said, "Before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here? Before the beautiful words of the "Star Spangled Banner" were written, we were here. Before the Declaration of Independence was done by Jefferson, we were here. We are not newcomers here. For more than two centuries our ancestors labored without wages, they traded cotton king and built their masters home under the most humiliating and oppressive conditions - yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to develop. And I say to you if slavery couldn't stop us - the resistance that we now face, cannot stop us!" In this excerpt here you can see my vast understanding of history, although I never lived to see my fortieth birthday.
Some of you began to worry when I repeated President John F. Kennedy's words by warning the United States Government in 1967 that "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." This would not have caught you off guard if you would study my evolution as a leader and of the climate in the nation at the time. Ironically, it was this same Kennedy who had authorized a wiretap on my Atlanta phone and on all the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) members phones on 10/10/1963. It's funny, because when I met with him in 1960 he encouraged my work, in fact because of this meeting many Negroes thought that he was our friend and cried for days when he was also assassinated. I guess this was better than the next President to succeed him named Lyndon B.Johnson who labeled me and my Muslim contemporary at the time, the most dangerous Black men in America. During my 1968 "Been to the Mountain Top" speech, I foreshadowed when I said, "The hour is dark. Evil comes forth in the guise of good. It is a time of double talk when men in high places, have a high blood pressure of deceptive rhetoric and a anemia of concrete performance." I knew "they" were gonna kill me soon. "They" gave me the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 so that they could disguise their true feelings toward me.
Socially and politically I had evolved past the rudimentary argument of violence vs. non-violence. I had come out hard against the Vietnam War. I told the American public that they "have a chance to vote into oblivion those leaders who support militarism." I proved myself to be consistent in my "Beyond Vietnam" speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4th of 1967.
This led Time Magazine to call my speech at Riverside Church "demagogic slander." The Washington Post said, "I had outlived my usefulness as a leader". By the way, both of these magazines are alleged to support me now, but I am dead now. The last thing good that "they" said about me was on 8/28/1963 during the March on Washington, when I performed my "I Have A Dream Speech" do you know that I didn't even speak for thirty minutes but I have spoken literally hundreds of times since that speech amounting to hundreds of hours, but they are still selling you that "Dream." I have hours of ideas on tape since then and I rarely participated in singing "We Shall Overcome" after the "March."
I began to point out the subtle differences between racism and white supremacy. I probably began to annoy "them" in 1964. During my "Why We Can't Wait" speech or it might have been my other speech called "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community" in 1967. I get confused because I have spoken so much since 1963. During this speech I said " Many whites who joined us in the Civil Rights struggle are against the extreme conditions of Blacks but not for the equality of Blacks in employment, housing and education. So who is it that is keeping this wall up? It's not the Ku Klux Klan or the John Birch Society but some old gentle White mother....White backlash is nothing new, it's a new name for an old phenomena." I think that I said this because through my travels I saw that in the South Blacks couldn't vote and in the North we believed we had no reason to vote.
I guess you can see, that I am probably much different than what people want you to believe about me. In fact I told you in my "Stanford Articles," (which hold a great many of my essays) that originally I was not a religious man but that "I only went to church to keep up with my sister". I was more of a spiritual man, who opted for the term God over Christ, or the word we referring to our people instead of Christians, especially in public. My attitude toward God was constantly changing and tested daily via racism. The fact is that I purposely took a alternative root from my Southern peers by attending a Northern School like Boston University instead of a Southern school for my divinity training. I felt that this was kudos for me and allowed me to be exposed to theological intellectualism that the south did not provide.
If not for Rosa Parks, you may never have heard of me. She is the one who actually pioneered the Civil Rights movement in 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. If I were alive I would tell you that it is unfair to single me out for "sole attribution" compared to so many who came before me and contributed so much during my time. I am glad that my widow and my "rivals" widow developed a relationship. Yes, they killed my contemporary also just as we were submerging our differences. Without James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Marcus Garvey, Fannie Lou Hammer and countless others my contribution would have been in abyss. My birthday as a national holiday is really a celebration of all the African American freedom fighters. Negro History Week was expanded into Black History Month. It is more important on my birthday that you expand my celebration into a study of the era of change in which I lived in and help contribute new changes to your era. I was not perfect and made many mistakes that you can learn from. If you wish to study me, do me a favor study me after 1963. That's when I really matured and that's the me you probably don't know. If you still have not guessed who I am, I am Martin Luther King Jr.
Proverb on Leaders: " When they come, the people are never ready- they make the people ready."
Author's note- It is always the few that make the movement, NEVER the masses.