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Dr. King: Honor him with a movement, not just monuments

January 15, 2018

by Dr. Amos C. Brown

President Donald Trump opened his mouth again on Thursday and nothing came out but hate, vulgarity, incivility and racist rhetoric. I will not repeat his latest words, but I like many others can’t ignore the sting of his rhetoric to the heart of all Americans as we celebrate the birthday of this sainted servant for social justice.

During his long tenure as San Francisco NAACP president, Dr. Amos Brown meets on Sept. 29, 2015, with the Board of Supervisors over the city’s huge Black-white income disparity. – Photo: Scott Strazzante, SF Chronicle

This makes me wonder if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have died in vain. April 4, 2018, marks the 50th year of his untimely assassination, which is why I also am very sad and disturbed over the mockery of Mr. Trump’s signing earlier this week a proclamation remembering Dr. King and designating the King Center a permanent national historic park.

Mr. Trump’s comments further devalued anything he said or ceremonially performed. So then we must raise the query, what is the value in a monument when our country has fallen so far backwards in race relations under this president?

As one of only eight students he ever taught in his lifetime, and a fellow civil rights servant, I can safely say that Dr. King did not want meaningless memorials. Throughout his life he sent a clarion call for a movement, and that is what we need today as our country deepens its tentacles in the three national trends Dr. King feared most: militarism, materialism and racism. They were his cardinal concerns. We should not as a country acquiesce to any one of these three evils.

We must raise the query, what is the value in a monument when our country has fallen so far backwards in race relations under this president?

If we are really as a nation serious about bridging racial division, all faith leaders and persons of good will must join a national movement to abstain from and ultimately stamp out racism. We must set aside political differences and work toward what Dr. King called for: peaceful conflict resolution to create a beloved community.

This movement must occur in stages. In the first stage, we must honor Dr. King’s resistance of conspicuous consumption and materialism which have brought this nation to the point of idolizing and celebrating the filthy rich.

Secondly, we must engage as a nation in a concerted and a collaborative investment of our time, funds and resources toward uplifting entrepreneurs, artists and young people from Black and other underserved communities in the U.S. The present administration has addressed neither of these concerns.

Thirdly, we must establish codes of ethics nationally to provide equal opportunity in hiring and pay for jobs. Moreover, we must narrow the gender and racial gap of our household income. In San Francisco alone the per capita family income for Blacks is $29,000, but for whites it is $101,000.

We must set aside political differences and work toward what Dr. King called for: peaceful conflict resolution to create a beloved community.

Dr. King lost his life in Memphis, Tennessee, while working for fair wages for garbage collectors. The unfortunate truth is that despite that last stand by this iconic man whose name dons the signs of streets and parks in cities throughout our nation, Black people remain underserved and possess less capital than any other group. Today we are being driven from our communities due to skyrocketing housing prices.

In San Francisco, Black children are performing academically worse than in any other county in California according to a recent study. California schools remain underfunded and Black workers remain underrepresented in the job market. In general, a prison guard makes $80,000 a year, but a teacher makes an entry salary of $40,000 a year.

It would be another dagger to the heart of social justice if we choose to focus on another atrocious statement by Donald Trump during the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday and the observance of his assassination.

Dr. King meets with his former student, Amos Brown, and Roy Wilkins in New York City in 1959, when Wilkins was executive secretary of the national NAACP. He became executive director in 1964.

It has been said that some people see things as they are and say why, but others dream things that never were and say why not? Now is the time for people of intelligence and goodwill to not just react to Mr. Trump and miss the moral responsibility to call him what he is, a racist man who engages in racist activity.

Now is the time for us to become civically engaged and register and vote and change the body of politics. Now is the time for all who will be remembering Dr. King on Monday. As Nike says, “Just Do It!” What might we do? In addition to celebration, consider what we are doing here to change this dangerous, racist and unjust tsunami.

Now is the time for us to become civically engaged and register and vote and change the body of politics.

In San Francisco Third Baptist Church and Congregation Emanu-El are continuing a 30-year-old after-school mentoring and tutorial program. This program engages persons in an interfaith, interracial and intercultural enterprise to produce more King scholars who will excel academically, socially and culturally. Moreover, in this cultural movement, there is an opportunity for an after-school music educational program which will be inaugurated this summer.

Children of all races will unite to learn music and learn from each other’s ethnic backgrounds that we may highlight the diversity of traditions that have contributed to our best instincts. This endeavor also makes up for educational cuts in programs and will help foster the talents of young people and provide inner-city kids a structured program that keeps them preoccupied and productive.

In so doing, we will live out the artistic spirit in the artistic mind of Dr. King, who was a member of the Morehouse College Glee Club in his early student days at the age of 15. This is just one program, but as a nation we must all ask ourselves in 2018 what will our next peaceful movement be? What can we all do individually and collaboratively to accomplish something that Dr. King would endorse?

At a time when Mr. Trump argues and plays games over who has the biggest nuclear button, we must say no to militarism and encourage international diplomacy and sensible negotiations.

As a nation we must all ask ourselves in 2018 what will our next peaceful movement be? What can we all do individually and collaboratively to accomplish something that Dr. King would endorse?

Again, we need a movement. In Dr. King’s honor, every American must join this movement to establish justice, peace and equality of opportunity for all. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve every injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to King’s “Beloved Community.”

When we do this, we will be able to sing with integrity the words of Charles A. Tindley’s “A Better Day is Coming”:

A better day is coming, the morning draweth nigh,

When girded right with holy might shall overthrow the wrong.

When Christ our Lord shall listen to every plaintive sigh,

And stretch his hand o’er every land in justice by and by. …

No more will angry nations in deadly conflict meet,

While children cry and parents die in conquest or defeat,

For God, the Captain, shall give the battle cry,

The Holy Ghost will lead the host to victory by and by. …

No more shall Lords and rulers their helpless victims press,

And bar the door against the poor, and leave them in distress.

But God, the King of Glory, who hears the raven’s cry,

Will give command that every man have plenty by and by.

Dr. Amos C. Brown is pastor of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco and past president of the San Francisco NAACP. He also chairs the Religious Affairs Committee of the National NAACP and the Social Justice Commission of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. Email him at dramoscbrown@thirdbaptist.org.

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