When Martin Luther King, Jr. brought his nonviolent campaign against segregation to Bull Connor's Birmingham, he laid siege to the bastion of Jim Crow. In Birmingham between 1957 and 1962, black homes and churches had been subjected to a series of horrific bombings intended to terrorize the community. In April 1963 King answered the call to bring his campaign to Birmingham. When King landed in jail on Good Friday for violating an injunction prohibiting demonstrations, he took the opportunity to meditate on the counsel of prudence with which Birmingham's white ministers had greeted his campaign. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was the result.And much closer to home, here's Garland city councilman Douglas Athas:
[...] n addition to King's witness, King's prophetic call permeates the "Letter." Why did King presume to come from Atlanta to Birmingham? King writes:
I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
King's prophetic call must have been both a source of strength and of concern. His strength was manifest; he rarely let his concern show. Perfection is not a condition of the prophet's call, and King was both imperfect and aware of his imperfections. His unbending strength is all the more remarkable.
I think too often King is remembered as a man that fought for the civil rights of black people. But I don't remember him that way and don't read that message in his speeches. Certainly the crowds that gathered for his speeches were heavily black but his words were always to a broader audience, the audience of all people, and his message was of freedom and equality for all people.I believe that as well. My only editorial comment today would be that there are plenty of people out there who are ready, willing and able to judge people not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character, and it's a shame that some people try to perpetuate the former for their own political gain.
He knew that inequality for any man meant there could be inequality for all men and, also, that what we openly grant to all others, we preserve for ourselves.
On this day that we celebrate his birth, I wish to recognize the huge gift that he secured for all people in this country and for so many across the planet.
I know he did see the promised land, and, by the power of his message, he took many to view the promised land. Our journey since his death has taken us closer to the promised land. We have not arrived but we are closer than we have ever been in history. If we keep our path forward to the promised land, we shall arrive. We, as a people, will get to the promised land.
I'm proud that the vision and promise that Martin Luther King, Jr, shared with all of us is closer to reality today than ever before. I'm not worried—we will get there.
I'll let words from Dr. King himself close out this post:
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.Words to remember. Rest in peace, Dr, King, and may your dream live on.