Early evening, April 4. Martin Luther King steps out onto the balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. In a moment’s time, Dr. King would be fatally shot in a hate crime of epic proportion. The man with a dream was silenced. But his dream would survive. Today, we embark on a year-long commemoration of his life and his tremendous impact on our culture, including the 1960s civil rights legislation that is his legacy. Still, what amazes me is that while I learned of Dr. King and his iconic speech in grade school, that was the sum total of any mention of Dr. King in our educational system. For example, although my name is Lorraine, I never knew that this also was the name of the motel where he was shot. I learned that just a month ago when I watched an incredible film that walked me through those fateful last moments: “I Am Not Your Negro,” based upon a 30-page letter by James Baldwin. Why didn’t the history books do that? It’s almost like the mere mention of Dr. King and his dream was enough to excuse the circumstances giving rise to his assassination.
While I take responsibility for not knowing more about Dr. King, that doesn’t change the fact that many historians made short shrift of the strife that plagued our country a half-century ago and that still plagues our country today. But our generation has social media. We are the documentarians of our time. Whether it be a black man being shot, or a Hispanic woman being deported, or a Muslin prevented from boarding an airplane, we can connect and find a way to collectively do something about that. We can live stream events and recognize each other’s ideals, struggles, and pain.
Throughout our history, communities always have found a way to pool resources. That enabled my mother to purchase our family home. Neighbors help neighbors. While the ability to mass-connect may not have been possible a half-century ago -- when Dr. King gave his speech at the National Mall -- it is now. Today, we are all neighbors. Let’s connect. Let’s share. And let’s bring home Dr. King’s dream of EQ4ALL!
Editor’s Note: The title of this Petition for Peace is an homage to the opening lyrics of the U2 hit song: “Pride (In the Name of Love),” which pertain to Dr. King’s assassination. Those lyrics – as erroneously recorded – are “Early Morning, April 4.” Dr. King was reportedly shot at 6:01 p.m., Memphis time. Lead singer, Bono, has been known to reference the discrepancy and occasionally change the words while performing the song in concert.