It’s the forty year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and I just gave up on watching the MLK convocation on television. As soon as I saw U.S. presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee and Bishop Eddie Long sitting together on the front row, I had my fill.

The pomp and circumstance wreaked of the kind of hero worship that Ella Baker warned King himself about . A kind of “cult of personality” that attempts to compensate for the lack of a sufficiently organized mass-based campaign. Now that the cult can assemble around an assassinated MLK (resurrected by the nice, neo-conservative, non-threatening King we get every year in textbooks and television), opportunistic vultures can align themselves with his “personality” to gain momentum for efforts that defy the principles that got the man killed.

Sigh.

I can imagine King in heaven right now wondering if all his work was in vain.

I put this vid together some time ago for a friend. The footage is spliced from the documentary Citizen King and the audio is from King’s sermon “Why Jesus Called A Man A Fool.” I chose many of the scenes because it frustrates me how local and national news outlets fail to show the violent response to civil rights marchers’ non-violent protests. They contribute to perpetuate the “Santa Clausification” of King and all freedom fighters from that era by presenting the struggle as if non-violent protests were passive and non-threatening.

‘Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool” was given two years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, in August 1967. In this sermon King seems more discouraged about black progress than ever before, reminding those gathered that:

“any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of (people) and is not concerned about the slums that cripple the souls—the economic conditions that stagnate the soul and the city governments that may damn the soul—is a dry, dead, do-nothing religion in need of new blood.”

The following clip is an excerpt from the climax of this sermon.

On this MLK holiday and despite the evidence that King’s legacy has been co-opted, manipulated, and exploited, may God give us the courage to plan, organize, and fight in the hope that we shall overcome some day.

VCF

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