Featured Image: Martin Luther King Kr. attends Broadway Answers Selma w/ Sammy Davis Jr. via Getty Images
The man we celebrate today came from holy beginnings. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is laced with hymns and praises and he is lauded as the leader of the civil rights movement. But Martin Luther King Jr. was just a man. He held rallies where that was a battlecry, “I AM A MAN!” Today, calling Dr. King a man seems simple, belittling almost, but in his time it was too much to ask. As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let’s revisit just how radical his proclamation was.
In Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop we see a human King. There are no grandiose statues or great pulpits, just a man with a passion for freedom and love. The 2011 Broadway production starring Samuel L. Jackson as King & Angela Bassett as his co-star, left theatre goers standoffish in light of an imperfect King. Ironically enough, Katori drew the humanity out of King in an effort to draw the greatness out of us. Katori’s King was so openly fearful so we could understand bravery. Katori immortalized King’s place in the theatre; she gave dimensions to a man who lived under the threat of death but spoke about the equality and promise of tomorrow.
Today we celebrate a man who not only spoke of equality under monuments, but marched for it in the streets of Memphis. Martin Luther King Jr. remained steadfast in a movement that watched its leaders become martyrs every day. This was a man that demanded humanity from a nation that abused him for drinking coffee at diner countertops. In light of the tumultuous leadership heading to the American government, I encourage you to celebrate King by honoring his resilience.
King’s most powerful weapon was his voice. Nations honored him, while ours feared what his determination could do. King thrived in a country that was committed to keeping the Black community marginalized and without structure. Martin Luther King did not just turn the other cheek, he faced discrimination with debilitating logic, grand inspiration and a will power that eviscerated anyone that supported injustice. King’s tireless trek towards peace was consistent therefore powerful. Even when his own house was bombed, he spoke love and not hate to a crowd of angry onlookers.
We celebrate King, not only for his ideals, but for the actions that brought them to life. Every January, we honor a man who gave his life so that we would give the same respect to the garbage man that we gave to the governor. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life so that our character would speak for us instead of our color and his did just that. Even in the face of absolute hate, he spoke of love and solidarity.
Dr. King dedicated his life to creating a world as beautiful as the words he wove together. We celebrate Dr. King because, in his dreams, he saw a world that transcended hate and ascended to The Mountaintop. We celebrate Dr. King because while he was with us, he didn’t just preach about this mountaintop, he led us there too.