Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Man to be Remembered

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In 161, a beginning to the development of America was the arrival of Africans to Jamestown. A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food, Africans became indentured servants, similar to many poor Englishmen who traded several years labor in exchange for passage to America, but up until 1680 the concept of racial-based slave system did not yet develop. Although the number of African American slaves grew slowly at first, by the 1680s African slave numbers grew to between 600,000 and 650,000 which had been forcibly transported to North America. By 1810, the number reached 6,000,000!! Slaves were forbidden from carrying guns, taking food, striking their masters, and running away. All slaves could be flogged or killed for resisting or breaking the slave codes (Sylvester). Although conditions became much better by January 15, 1, when Martin Luther King Jr. was born into his Atlanta, Georgia home, weak traces of slavery and strong cases of prejudice and racism still existed. From birth, Martin Luther King Jr. helped change the American society’s cruel ways and reform into a united nation, to live in peace with our brothers and sisters of the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born into a family of ministers. His mother was a school teacher, who taught him to read before even going to school. A very good student, he was able to skip grades in elementary and high school. At 15 he enrolled at Morehouse College. He received a bachelors degree in Sociology in 148, also a B.D. in 151 from Crozer Theological Seminary and a Doctorate of Philosophy in 155 from Boston University. It was at Boston University that he met and married Coretta Scott. They moved to Montgomery, Alabama. By 154 Martin Luther King Jr. became a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. As a Reverend, he made many touching and impacting sermons, preaching his words and knowledge in hope for a better world. “Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating anothers flesh” (King Why We Cant Wait).

From childhood, King experienced racism, including one instance where his neighbors would no longer allow him to play with their sons, because he was ‘colored’ (Savier). He was strong enough to move on from that, and smart enough to know and realize that there was a LARGE problem in America, which he planned to fight to change.

Although King was born with his strong sense of ambition and determination, he had help along his way. Two people who played strong influence roles for him were his father and Gandhi. His father instilled his religious beliefs into his young son, raising him as best as he could. Gandhi’s peaceful teachings are said to have played a huge role when it came to King’s leadership, especially Civil Rights Movements - which could’ve easily turned into chaos, Since King believed that oppressed people have a moral obligation to resist any system that refuses to treat them as persons, he believed it necessary to expose and denounce any type of response by the oppressed that would ignore this duty to resist or even would resort to immoral forms of resistance. King chose, therefore, to pattern his crusades after Gandhis (Dinh).

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King presented himself in a way like no one had done before, he was standing up for what he believed in, and stopping for no one, no matter what it took. King started his advancement to leadership in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the South, lasting about eight years before it became national. In addition to the SCLC, King led and participated in the following Civil Rights Movements the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 155, the Birmingham Protest March, and March on Washington, both of 16. Motivated by Gandhi, none of King’s actions were violent, but they were peaceful. By 165, Civil Rights Activists even made it possible to vote! King took a large part in the first steps toward black freedom.

By only 164, King’s work succeeded. He’d won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was named “Man of the Year” for 16 by Time Magazine, where they discussed in an article his achievements and what he did to earn the Peace Prize. “It was the year of Birmingham, when the civil rights issue was impressed on the nation in a way that nothing else before had been able to do. It was the most decisive year in the Negros fight for equality. Never before had there been such a coalition of conscience on this issue” (Martin Luther King Jr. Never Again Where He Was). It was his strong leadership in the Birmingham Protest March, where civil rights issues were impressed on the nation in a way that nothing else before had been able to do. It was the most decisive year in the Negros fight for equality. His leadership skills and nonviolent words and acts brought him to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite his best efforts, his protest movements often led to violence. He himself had been stabbed in the chest, physically attacked three more times; his home had been bombed three times, and he has been thrown into jail 14 times. He also received a lot of negative letters through mail. “After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time -- the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression” (King Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech).

King impacted many people, from pro sports players, to hip hop artists, to the average person. “As far as black and white terms and everyone getting along, he paved the way. With my generation, that was never an issue; I didnt really see people as black and white. People are people, thats just the way I was raised. In that sense, he totally affected me �

I had no prejudice toward anyone because I didnt see color” (Simmons). “We as a young generation havent taken up civil rights because we see it as only part of the pie” (Williams). “I can still remember where I was the day Martin Luther King was shot � in the San Francisco airport. My trip to Hawaii didnt seem quite as important that day. I pause to honor this brave man each year” (John).

Whether people of the past, present, or future, King has, is, and will, continue to impact lives. King did not only impact the people of his time, he made his mark around the world, for all time. He was a good man, he fought for what he believed in, and achieved it.

Although he strongly believed in non- violence and peace, ironically, and to the world’s shame, King was assassinated. It was April 4, 168 around 600pm. He stepped onto the balcony outside the Motel Lorraine in Memphis, Tennessee - meanwhile, from the bathroom of the flophouse across from where King was staying, James Earl Ray balanced on the edge of a bathtub, rested his rifle on the window sill, and fired a single shot that with trained-sniper perfection entered King in the head. This one shot was said to have a global impact.

We all reflect at least one day a year, about this man. It took 15 years after his death, but now every third Monday in January is celebrated in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, although his real birthday is January 15. Although it was controversial as to whether Martin Luther King Jr. should have his own individual holiday, or if it should be devoted to the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King demonstrated strong qualities, earning his title, earning his day of remembrance.

Most literature on King has limited him to the American context, presenting him as a southern black leader, a civil rights activist, an `American Gandhi or a national symbol. This approach undermines Kings importance as a world leader and fails to capture the extent to which he addressed the global realities of racism, poverty and war. Evidence of his global impact is the fact that his birthday is celebrated in about 100 countries around the world. (Baldwin)

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