MLK Day letter to the editor and for friends

MLK Jr. Concert

Portsmouth, N.H. – Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014: Bluesman T.J. Wheeler, left, of Hampton Falls practices a song with event organizer Lillian Buckley, right, of Kittery, ME, before the start of the Martin Luther King birthday concert held at the Middle Street Baptist Church. (Portsmouth Herald Photo Cheryl Senter)

Is MLK day the best holiday or what? It’s a celebration of Civil and Human rights and the struggle it took to bring the American dream to at least a partial, if not precarious, reality. It’s named after one but it is a celebration of, and for all, people. We celebrate a meaningful freedom. In seeking that quest, Martin often upset members of the movement, as well as those bitterly opposed to it’s fundamental principles. He knew this quest was not confined to one race, but for all suffering under oppression, as well as for freeing the burden of hate, from the oppressors. His vision broadened the original scope and led him to oppose the Viet Nam war and to take on his plans for a second march on Washington i.e. the Poor Peoples Campaign. Such bold plans alienated him from the most powerful and some of his closest allies. None the less, he stood firm, often misunderstood, but strident in his beliefs. Today, too often, I see MLK day and his overall vision being diluted, and in danger of being an anachronism. The songs will ring hollow unless we boldly and courageously speak out, no matter if it’s “safe” or not. We need to loudly fight reticence as well as racism, and the current set backs in the freedom movement. The long list includes the resurgence of the “new Jim Crow” in voting rights…creating up to 18 hr. voting lines, the gerrymandering of voting districts, and other voting restrictions clearly aimed at Blacks, Democrats, and even the elderly. On the other hand, I see many of my peers talking and singing about the glory days of the movement without bringing up such current issues, as well as issues of worldwide slavery, (such as in the Sudan,) the censoring and making ILLEGAL minority studies in the public schools in the state of Arizona. I think Dr. King would be clearly speaking out on all these issues and much more. Dr. King was eloquent, and profound. Smooth as he was he also had an edge and a cutting edge at that…. Where is that edge today? If there was anything Dr. king hated more than prejudice, I would speculate that it would be acquiescence. I encourage us all to push past the comfort zones of complacency, and encourage everyone to make your voice’s loud and proud.

      Have a great ” Day On”
           Tj Wheeler
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