The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated during the tumultuous 1960s. He lived for justice and died for justice. In his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, he said in part:
“[W]e’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.
“Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check, which has come back, marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”
His words that day had a dramatic effect that placed injustice in the spotlight. He stated his case to free his people from “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” much like Moses summoned Egypt’s Pharaoh with “let my people go.”
On April 3, 1968, in Memphis – the night before Dr. King died – when he delivered that very moving speech in support of the striking sanitation workers, he was still talking about injustice.
He told the audience, “[L]et us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers.” He quoted Amos 5:24, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
I encourage anyone to read that powerful speech in its entirety. Dr. King knew of all the threats being made on his life, and he left instructions just as Moses did for the Israelites after God told him he would not get to the promised land. However, God did allow him to see it. Dr. King ended his speech as if he knew it was his last saying:
“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.”
This commentary was originally published in the Jan. 14, 2016 issue of the L.A. Sentinel Religion section.
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon). Email: [email protected]