We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Where I’m sitting writing to you, it’s in the air, as it always sort of is in Memphis. Please take a few minutes to read and view this stunning photo essay, “Leading Up To Six:01: Martin Luther King, Jr. – The Last 32 Hours” from The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.
It includes a lot of the history of what really led to that fateful day, what the “sanitation strike” was really all about. They don’t teach that too well in schools, at least not in the South. I learned it from a dearly departed friend who was there in the Mason Temple during that awful thunderstorm the night before he died, where he spoke these words:
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.
And then the next day, April 4, 1968, changed history.
King also said, “I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Some of the critics of the LGBT rights movement accuse us of “co-opting” the Civil Rights Movement. No LGBT person I know has ever argued that the struggles are the exact same, or has ever tried to take away from what our African-American brothers and sisters have had to endure in their fight for justice. But they’re related. They’re part of the same story, the bending toward justice, so to speak, that has characterized American history. Most of the King family knew that. Dr. King’s late wife Coretta famously tied the two fights together, understanding that, as her husband had said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Indeed.
The LGBT rights movement is unique in that it involves people of all colors, all races, all religions and lack thereof, all socioeconomic strata. That simple fact gets lost sometimes when people try to drive a wedge between the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for LGBT equality. We all have a responsibility to each other to listen, to understand, to tell others the stories, to ensure that we have each others’ backs when it comes to eradicating all injustice.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would demand nothing less.