Southern Hope

The postponement of the Aug. 28 corporate gala that was to officially freeze Dr. King at dreaming is a actually a good thing. Now a serious deliberation begins about the very liberal/radical economic remedies Dr. King would suggest to Great Depression II if he were a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show today.

Bystander in Los Angeles for parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King's confused legacy is evident in this 2009 photo. Photo: © 2009 Boyd Lewis
Bystander in Los Angeles for parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King's confused legacy is evident in this 2009 photo. Photo: © 2009 Boyd Lewis

Dr. King would tell Rachael the root of today’s economic misery and human anguish must be laid at the door of out-of-control capitalism and dehumanization of working men and women.

Dr. King would denounce the finance market gambling losses of the feral rich being made up by and paid for by the out of work, struggling students, single mothers, the poor and everybody who had nothing to do with this goddammed “global financial meltdown.”

And Dr. King would be shocked to the core of his moral being at the spectacle of the aforementioned feral rich rewarded with guaranteed tax cuts and loopholes, bailouts and bonuses, cabinet posts and government wiping clear any hint of consequence by the evil doers.

Evil as Bull Connor. Evil as the bombers of the four little children.

How can you profit by destroying people and not face severe judgment? If not from this toothless Justice Department, then from Almighty God.

We went to jail. Thousands of us. We went to jail to save democracy, not to pillage it. Why are not the architects of our total systematic ruination in jail? Why are these Masters of the Universe not laying on bare steel slabs singing the Blues?

“The moral arc of today’s universe is long,” Dr. King might update his quote, “but it’s clear in America today that it bends toward Mammon and mendacity.”

Those who study the uncensored legacy of Martin King know that his last two years were spent trying to take the Movement in its next logical stage: using the same nonviolent resistance to stop The War and demand the government do more to end joblessness, homelessness, sickness, and Godless behavior that sprung straight out of the forehead of Poverty. Dr. King would certainly say something like that.

This is the check stamped insufficient funds–the inability then and now of the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners to get a day’s pay for a day’s honest work.

Before the fatal detour to Memphis in April 1968, Dr. King was deep into the planning of a ramped up campaign of civil disobedience to show society the face of the invisible poor.

Resurrection Cities nationwide would lift the veil of the poor in peaceful, earnest, angry, creative, well disciplined ways in organized encampments the nation hadn’t seen since the Bonus Marchers of 1932. Massive, coordinated incidents of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance would occur coast to coast

The overarching theme of these 1968 et sec events was Lifting the Veil from the Faces of People who just can’t seem to get a working chance at reaching the American Dream.

You know them. These are the people who are paying in their blood for the money shuffling games of the Offshore Filthy Rich, and these poor suckers who get the bill feel like they’re in hell with every breathing moment. Life and hope for their children are crumbling. Get educated. Go into debt. Frantically look for a job. Despair.

The little people responded to Dr. King’s racial and economic ideas and voiced hopes the way little people responded to Jesus, to Gandhi, and to the hope of a better day with the dawn. The little people are the great ones, out of which the universe is made. The rest is static.

I miss the heartfelt passion Dr. would bring to the enfeebled debates today. I miss on today’s gloomy scene someone of Dr. King’s ability to get people to move with their better angels as companions. To move together. In the rain. In crowds. Singing.

As long as he is left dreaming in this stone, we are lost. None can speak today with his eloquence. We’ll just dream our way to apocalypse. Inactive until the arrival of the little man in the bright nightgown.

People of goodwill should be comfortable leaving the rubble of the corporatized Aug. 28 mummification ceremony and moving on Aug. 29 to a deeper appreciation of the uncensored Martin King.

Aug. 29 seems an historic moment for those who care about Dr. King’s message for today. The stone was rolled away and the real, total, complete and authentic Martin King is beginning to emerge in these times of fear and terrible peril.

Dr. King’s comments about the failure of capitalism were as pungent in 1966 as they are in the times of avaricious hedge fund managers and bonus loving Wall Streeters.

Know this and know it very well: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would feel slandered if he could see the offstage fiasco that his SCLC and the King Center and the China statue underwritten by Wal Mart have presented as following the Drum Major for Justice.

Aug. 29 saw a beautiful sunny day at the King Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. The storm had passed. A truly beautiful facial depiction of Dr. King 31 feet high dried to a beautiful buff color as the rainwater evaporated. The torso, more like a heroic figure of the Great Helmsman leading the Long March to Communism, is best ignored. But the face is simply majestic.

I believe something new has begun. At least I hope it has if we have any hope for the future. A New Movement should rattle off its chains of cant, cliche and profit surrounding the man and take the Honest and True Legacy of Martin King out of the shadows and make it speak for us one more time.

Now. In our time of our need.


Boyd Lewis

Boyd Lewis

New Orleans family. War baby. Family moved a lot. Secondary and college education in Memphis, TN. Just before 1967 graduation, commissioning and tour of leafy, lovely Vietnam, banged up in auto accident. Decided to go into journalism. Tennessee mountain weekly, small Mississippi daily and nearly three decades in Atlanta. Black and alternative newspapers, freelance photojournalist, public radio news and documentary producer, news writer for CNN. Married Deborah James, followed her to Los Angeles for job. Quit the dismal trade and became middle school English teacher in LA barrio school. Quite happy.

    1. I think this will happen, if Dr. King’s unfiltered message is allowed to reach the millions who need any relief at all, even a verbal reassurance, in these grim times when the Luftwaffe masses off Dover, when all seems lost. We know the British War Office poster issued when a German invasion seemed imminent: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
      There’s another poster more suited for today: “Freedom is in Peril / Defend it with All Your Might.”
      I think the danger is sinking in to many minds. This is no longer partisan squabbling. This is war, and the TP-GOP is out to kill our hopes, our history and our forward progress. I remember 2009: “Next Time We Come Loaded.” I fear they will. Freedom is in peril. Americans will defend it will all their might. Game on.

  1. Terri Evans

    Thank you, Boyd for the hope and the history. I will be inspired today by your passionate post. “Feral rich” is brilliant.

  2. Jeff Cochran

    And how’s this? The representatives of the Feral Rich in Washington now advocate pulling funds from government programs to help repair the damage caused by Hurricane Irene. If they can’t tap those sources, then the hurricane victims can just groove on the rubble. The Feral Rich get meaner and meaner.

  3. The seven deadly sins (wrath, pride, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth and envy) are manifestations of basic instincts become obsessions. Or, if you will, you can call them addictions, bad habits that require an intervention to shake. Compromise is not possible with obsessions because their essence is not to be satisfied, incapable of saying “enough.”
    I think we organize our governments to intervene. But, that’s not possible when the agents of government are addicted themselves. So, they have to be removed. We need a better Congress. 2012 can’t come soon enough. Unjust Stewards, they’re an old problem and one that’s not likely to be ever permanently corrected.
    Luke 16:1-13.

  4. Boyd: A really excellent piece, and exactly what our times do require. In addition to Dr. King, I heard some Hosea as I read it.

    1. Thanks y’all. I arrived in Atlanta on a sweltering July day in 1969. Dr. King had been gone for 15 months and his hometown was just coming out of shock. I wound up working for two black weekly newspapers, each with close ties to Dr. King or the Atlanta Student Movement. I was the “white boy with the black press” as the late John Calhoun called me at a Hungry Club Forum. For three years, I set the news and editorial policy of the most militant black paper in the city. After six years, I got to know virtually everybody related to, colleagued with, marched with or argued over the bill at Aleck’s Barbecue Heaven with Martin King. Then I was first news editor of Creative Loafing, its anonymous columnist “The Citymouse;” did Atlanta public radio news for 17 years and wound it with two years writing news for the prime time anchors at CNN. But nothing was so thrilling as showing up for a hotsy-totsy event with Network TeeVee crews representing The Atlanta Voice with a WWII Army gas mask bag over my shoulder packed with cameras, lenses and flash and asking questions of concern to Black Atlanta. All of this comes from that.

  5. It really captures King’s spirit and what he was working on when he was murdered, which was jobs, jobs, economic security to go along with equality. Economics it was that spooked the Big Boys, for as someone noted, the law, in its majesty, forbids both rich and poor from sleeping under bridges.
    You wrote well. It was pitch=perfect.

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