Forty-Seven years have now gone by since our esteemed, leader Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee.
By the time of his death, King had become the symbol of the civil rights movement.
He was there for the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown vs Board of Education condemning “separate but equal” in public education.
He was there when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus to go to the back seats in order to make room for white riders. He was at the forefront of the demonstrations that followed— the bus boycotts and the street demonstrations.
In short, from the mid-nineteen fifties to the time of his death, King was involved as a leader in just about every significant civil rights action. He led many a demonstration and was there to witness many successes along the road.
By the time of his death, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was in every sense the very embodiment of the civil rights movement.
From time to time we hear people wondering how King would view the progress of black Americans almost fifty years since his historic time. In these days and times, what would King say and do about the state of black America?
No one really knows. Most people continue to say that “we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go!” And they are right in some sense.
However, if we as a society were to follow the pattern of what happened after the great work of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. we would do something very different.
Look at what happened after Moses in the Book of Exodus confronted the Pharaoh of Egypt. He celebrated the Passover (Passover this year providentially falls on April 4) and the Jews went on to form a nation.
Look at what happened after Jesus led a movement with his 12 disciples; after he too was murdered on a cross— celebrated on Good Friday, April 3, this year! His disciples founded the Christian Church, which is thriving today with a worldwide membership in excess of two billion members!
Look at what happened after Gandhi led the non-violent movement in India. They went on to change a nation and in about sixty short years, India has become a power to be reckoned with.
Look at what happened in South Africa after Nelson Mandela led a movement for freedom, even after many years of suffering and imprisonment for almost a complete generation! South Africa was changed forever!
However, when we look at what has happened since King’s death, blacks continue to speak and act as though things have not changed. Despite the fact that many favorable laws are now in place; despite the fact that we actually have a black man holding the highest office in the land; despite the fact that we have leaders in all walks of life, we continue to think and talk as though nothing significant has changed.
We continue to sing the song: “We Shall Overcome Someday!” A great song to prepare and ready us for battle but not the song we should sing after.
As long as we continue to sing that song from our own lips, we are doing two sad things.
Firstly, we are saying that as of today all that our great leaders like King, all that our fore parents have suffered and died to accomplish was for naught.
Secondly, we are postponing our moment of victory into the future, while claiming that we are living forever in the penultimate of our victory.
That is not smart. We know of no successful people who sing songs telling themselves and everyone else that they “just can’t win for losing.”
Suppose we followed the examples set by Moses, Jesus, Gandhi and Mandela and establish something that marks the “before and after” of black existence by using King and his assassination date as the marker. Moses did the Passover; Jesus gave us Easter and the Christian Church; and Mandela and Gandhi left changed nations.
How about letting King give us “The Overcome,” just as Moses gave the Jews The Passover!
How about allowing Martin to leave us a name change that points to our character and NOT the color of our skins. Suppose we allowed Martin to make us OVERCOMERS… people who claim that all they have gone through— Middle Passage, Slavery, Segregation, poverty and all the hurts that went with those experiences— served to hone the character of a new people who as overcomers pledge from this time and going forward to overcome or vanquish any and all barriers to our leading successful lives, because of the character bequeathed to us by Martin Luther King’ Jr. and all those who went before us.
Starting right now, we can pledge to stop singing that ‘we shall overcome. ”So, we claim that in King and all those who suffered for us, we have already overcome and we thereafter think, talk, hope and act/behave as overcomers! What a wonderful world this would be! What a gift to the memory of King! What a positive teaching and organizing tool for the future.
Dr. Peter Bramble has written a rite for doing “The Overcome.” Get it here for free. Call him at 347-267-0803 to discuss, add or improve the concept.