Sunday, January 16, 2005

In Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

These are two tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They are written with the hindsight knowledge of Dr. King the man: preacher, teacher, prophet, adulterer, sexist, misogynist. I do not say these things lightly.

I prefer the whole package with all its strengths and flaws. I prefer to think of Dr. King as a man and honor him with these pieces. It takes away our excuse to be "perfect" before we get to the task he set before us.

April 4, 1968
© 4 April 2004, The Griot Poet

America deciphered: “I am race,”
Skated the slate of liberation,
Twisting freedom via litigation,
Stating we were three-fifths human.

The delusion kept alive from a pulpit
For Sundays and centuries
From slavery and bitter memories
Until a vilified, controversial
Whore-mongering warrior poet
Would take the stand.

After Rosetta Park’s
Defiant, seated stand
Put boldness in backbones
Stooped by noose,
Night raids,
Razed townships like:
Greenwood, Archer and Pine
(Black Wall Street before the GAP Band)
Jim Crow and burning crosses.

Would put into practice
By Mahatma Gandhi
And Palestinian Prophets
Taking action against
Pharaoh’s factions
Daily hurtling
Towards being a noble sacrifice.

April 4, 1968:
Bethlehem Community Center
In East Winston-Salem, North Carolina…
Teachers sat down a kindergarten
Class relaying the sad news
That their Moses,
Who had “been to the mountaintop…”

Urban children,
Spread three-to-five
Shed hot tears
In an understanding
Beyond their years
Until time for
Their 11 o’clock

After that,
Recess was recessed,
The slow build never
Really got to the
Typical level of activity
We enjoyed.

Confederate flags
And pick up trucks
Rode through our
To start
A ruckus.

No joy
In the usual
Toys; no joy
In parent pick up:
My father
And red-eyed.

I held him tight with
Needing his strength on
The day

Mountaintop Sermons
© 14 January 2005, The Griot Poet

“I’ve been to the mountaintop…”

But, I want you to understand,
I was just a man
Just as flawed, just as human
Prone to mistakes
And at times, degraded women and my own race
In unintended ignorance
Playing a slave singing dark ditties
In Margaret Mitchell’s film version
Of the novel “Gone With the Wind.”

“I’ve been to the mountaintop…”

But, I want you to understand,
I was just a man
And don’t take this day
As a day off
But a day ON
Do the marches; sing the songs
Don’t go back to “business as usual.”

You see,
If you let them
They’ll make a symbol out of me,
They’ll use select verses of my
Most heart felt sermons
To propel a commercial agenda
And a political bent
Which is meant
To keep you behind a neon
Mental sign of exclusion
More powerful than the ones
I viewed
On water fountains and theaters saying:
Whites only; Coloreds only

“I’ve been to the mountaintop…”

And, I want you to understand
I was just a man
Like David,
A man after God’s own heart
That if he lived today
Would be vilified
On 24-hour news stations diatribes
Before this and every nation
Until he
Abdicated dignity and civility
In costly impeachment investigations

You will see
People still trying to vilify me
Years after I’m gone
Fallen by natural causes… or other means
Using FBI tapes and illegal wire taps
I was just trying to follow Jesus
The living revolutionary
Who told me in His sermons “they will hate you, as they hated me.”

But that didn’t stop His march to Calvary,
And it didn’t stop my march in Selma,
It didn’t stop my march in “Bombing Ham” for four little black girls,
It didn’t stop my march in Atlanta,
It didn’t stop my march in Chicago,
It didn’t stop my march in Detroit,
It didn’t stop my march in Washington, DC!

It won't stop with YOUR march...

You see,

“I’ve been to the mountaintop…”

If you really want to honor me,
"Try to love somebody,"
Be a "drum major for justice,"
And realize,
One person
Can make a difference!

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