In 1983 Ronald Reagan signed a bill to commemorate Martin Luther King’s Day . It was celebrated national wide starting in 1986. Many people are familiar with his famous speech, “I have a Dream.” But what do we know about the rise of this Baptist minister? As a leader in the Civil Rights movement from 1955 to 1965.
As a young man, Martin was greatly influenced by the non-violent resistance practiced by the Indian people to resist British rule and gain their independence. Dr. King sought to resist discrimination with non violent marches, singing and prayers. Many people joined the marches risking imprisonment ,beating and even death to challenge the established norms. Gandhi was imprisoned 13 times. Dr. Martin Luther King was jailed 30 times for non violent resistance protests.
From the Montgomery bus boycott to the march from Selma to Montgomery AL. to protest voting laws. That kept non white voters from registering to vote.
There were other protests before this. On March 1st 1965, 600 people participated in the first of three marches towards the state capital. They were turned back before crossing the The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Al. The first march was attended by over 50 priests, ministers and other clergy. It was chronicled in the writings of Fr. Thomas Carroll in his correspondence.
“Fifty of us clergy rode a bus from Boston to Selma. We were met by parishioners to feed and house the group. When we lined up in the early morning, I knew that my 6 foot, four inch height and my collar would make a prime target for snipers. We walked in a tight formation , singing, We shall Overcome We followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to the start of the bridge into Selma. Halted by the Alabama National Guard, I noted hate in the eyes of the guards. Dr King knelt to pray for the police and the people of Alabama. I couldn’t kneel due to an injured leg. Bending low, I continue to imagine my head in a rifle sight. Young boys, circulated through the marchers informing us to turn around after the prayer. I was never so scared and elated to return to the bus.”
I think of this day of service and know that I will not be putting myself in harms way. But The spirit of Dr. King reminds me to be mindful while I read books to children at the local library, cleaning the cafeteria or pack lunches at the children food basket. Working with others to build community will last more than one day.
So what are you going to do to promote change where you live? Then do it! One day at a time.
Step by Step
Step by step we walk arm in arm with others.
Winds of change are in the air.
Opening our eyes, we truly see each other.
Masks fall away as the true self is revealed.
With mindfulness, we smile at the stranger.
Looking into their eyes we glimpse ourselves.
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