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April 4, 2008 | bpfna
On April 3, King had led a march protesting the low pay for black garbage collectors. That night there was a mass meeting held and King was to speak. Feeling sick he had initially asked Ralph Abernathy to speak for him, but, enthused by Abernathy’s speech, King rose to deliver what would be his final speech. King had included the lines, “I have seen the promised land” and “I might not make it with you” before in speeches, but it proved to be all too true that night. The full speech can be found at: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/sayitplain/mlking.html
When King spoke a year earlier at The Riverside Church in
For almost 25 years now, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America has spoken out for peace rooted in justice. Early concerns included nuclear proliferation, apartheid in
Always seeking to broaden our vision and to understand better, we spoke even when we thought very few people were listening.
Pam De Young wrote a moving article in a 1987 edition of PeaceWork, then BPFNA’s newsletter. In it she told of a letter her nine-year old son had written to President Reagan (“Please stop the Bombs.”) and the response he received (a full-color brochure of the White House); clearly the President was oblivious to her son’s “urgent message.” She goes on to say, “Oblivious aptly describes many Americans’ response to the crisis facing our country…[I]f they have momentarily faced the truth about our self-serving violence, they have found it too overwhelming to even try to sort out.”
Following the attacks in the
I wrote of the need for a response based in restorative justice; address the crime – don’t start a war. “The perpetrators need to be brought to justice in an international court of law…Diplomatic action along with crime investigation needs to be part of a police action that seeks out the individuals responsible. Justice can be done, but not through an ongoing war.”
But now there is good news! Forty years after Martin Luther King was shot down in
On April 5, 1968, King said, “[A]nother reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we're going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demand didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence!”
Let us choose to rededicate ourselves to that “vocation of agony,” to continue to speak for peace rooted in justice. We know what King saw from that mountaintop. It’s time we crossed over into the Promised Land.
-Evelyn Hanneman, BPFNA Operations Coordinator
photo courtesy of the Scurlock Collection
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