As we began the decade that started with 2000, there was talk about a new millennium and whether the clocks and computers could tell us the time. That became the smallest of our problems as America elected a President who left us in debt, at war, and so terrorized that it was an adventure to get on an airplane. In the end, the words of Bill Clinton came back to haunt us in ways that we never thought we would see. The Clinton campaign theme was “It’s the economy (stupid)” or something to that effect. That theme is again with us. It is as it has always been. The economy. And that requires us all to reach back to the teachings of parents and history.
As for my parents, they taught me that as long as you have a dollar in your pocket, you’ve got a friend. They taught me things like being a good steward of your money means don’t ever part with all of it.
If someone tells you to give your last dollar and you will be blessed, just remind yourself that if the dollar is in your pocket you are already blessed.
In the street wisdom of a fictitious Harlem character named “Simple” by Langston Hughes, he reminds us of a few things about life. For example: Simple says “when you look at this life you’ll find it ain’t anything but a race. If you can’t be on the winning horse, Son, at least place.” Simple also reminds us that “There ain’t any way to be out in front, without showing your tail to the horse behind.” That’s kind of like the old West Indian saying, “The higher a monkey climbs the more he exposes.” (Can you say “Tiger Woods”?)
This past week I heard an announcement that points out that progress can and will be taken away from you if you are not eternally vigilant. The word is that the U.S. Census Bureau is returning the category of NEGRO on the upcoming census. The logic is that there are some older African Americans who want to be called Negro and the bureau is going to accommodate them. There are people who think that New Orleans should not be rebuilt, post Katrina, and they are winning since it is being rebuilt at a snails pace.
There are some people who believe a lot of things that make no sense, like Barack Obama is a Kenyan. The question is, should we accommodate them? No!
There are young people who get tattoos on their necks and then go job hunting. There are young people who wear their pants down around their thighs so they show their drawers and try to walk. They look ridiculous. It makes me wonder if their brains aren’t being worn in the wrong place also.
As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday this year it seems that there are some battles that still need to be fought. He is not here but his spirit lives on and we need to tackle the problems head on. I am not talking about his dream. We’ve been dreaming too long. I am talking about his direct action strategies. King didn’t just sit around and dream of a better day for the garbage workers of Memphis. He went there and confronted the problem head on, though it took his life.
He didn’t just sit around and dream about a better bus system in Birmingham, Alabama. He led a movement that changed Birmingham and the world forever. He led a movement that became a model for changing the problems of the day. The question now is how do we apply his direct action strategies to getting jobs for our young people today? How do we teach them that just because Dennis Rodman and Kobe have bodies full of tattoos and ears full of diamonds, that doesn’t make them good role models? The real question is what’s happening between their diamond filled ears in the brain department?
Consider the fools on the Washington Wizards basketball team who brought their guns into the locker room. Are they good role models or just good basketball players?
Where are those leaders imbued with the spirit of Dr. King to fight the battle of changing the schools to get a better education for our children? Where are the radicals who will lead the fight for health care for the poor at government expense? Where are those who will confront the politicians who are more concerned with the profits of health care and insurance executives than with the needs of the people they say they love? Where are the radical followers of King who should be confronting the politicians with questions about why they would spend billions on killing people in the worlds killing fields, while saying there is no money for education and health care for America’s masses?
While preaching the eulogy of Dr. King, Dr. Benjamin Mays who headed Morehouse said the following. “Surely this man was called of God to do this work. If Amos and Micah were prophets in the eighth century B.C., Martin Luther King, Jr., was a prophet of the twentieth century. If Isaiah was called of God to prophesy in his day, Martin Luther was called of God prophesy in his time. If Hosea was sent to preach love and forgiveness centuries ago, Martin Luther was sent to expound the doctrine of nonviolence and forgiveness in the third quarter of the twentieth century.
If Jesus was sent to release those in prison and called to preach the gospel to the poor, Martin Luther King, Jr., fits that designation. If a prophet is not one who seeks popular causes to espouse, but rather the causes he thinks are right, Martin Luther was qualified on that score. Mays finished the message by quoting John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he said. “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s unfinished work on earth must truly be our own. Work.”
The question for each of us today is where are the Prophets to speak and carry out the unfinished work of Dr. King for that in need?