Copyright ©2019 - Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III, All Rights Reserved.
Jan 2017 20

Embracing the Legacy of Dr. M.L.King Jr: Serve, Advocate, Inspire!

Posted in Articles, Democracy, M.L.King Jr Life and Celebration, Speeches

 Embracing the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Serve, Advocate and Inspire!
Delivered on January 16, 2017
City of Southfield Annual M L King Jr. Celebration
Southfield, Michigan
Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Introduction

Good Morning People!

This is a day that the Lord has made. Let us give thanks and rejoice today that we can come together for such an important occasion in the life of our community and nation.

“Thank you” Patricia Haynie, Attorney Robin Dillard Russaw, and other Executive officers, Advisory Board Members and general members of the City of Southfield’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Task Force for giving me this special opportunity to speak to you today.

Greetings Mayor Ken Siver, Southfield City Council, and other dignitaries and members of government, elected representatives, Vince Gregory, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and members of various faith communities, business and education community representatives and all the wonderful people of Southfield, Detroit and neighboring suburbs and municipalities of the State of Michigan and other regions gathered here today.

Thank you former Council woman Barbara Talley, and brother Al Talley, and others for founding this great annual observance in the City of Southfield. Your tireless efforts as the first African American council person in the City of Southfield, has helped make this special day possible.

It has been over twenty years since I last stood here as a young man chosen to speak to the people of this community on “What Dr. King Would Say to Young People Today,” and it is with deep humility and gratitude that I stand here again today to speak on the subject of “Embracing the Legacy of Dr. King: Serve, Advocate and Inspire,” as we remember one of America’s greatest freedom fighters, drum majors for justice, one of the nation’s greatest advocates for equal rights, voting rights and human rights- the only American Civilian for whom a national holiday has been named, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There were many moving parts to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’ and 1960’s and countless persons who gave their hearts, minds, bodies and souls to the cause of freedom, justice and equality in America. We also honor them today for their steadfast devotion and those who gave their last full measure of devotion that that nation might live and have a new birth of freedom, in the words of Abraham Lincoln.

We remember the Freedom Rides organized by James Farmer in 1961 and the courageous Freedom Riders; the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) formerly known as the Committee on Racial Equality co-founded by James Farmer, George Houser and Bernice Fisher. We remember the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (S.N.C.C) organized by Ella Baker at Shaw University in April 1960 and Stokely Carmichael and James Foreman became two of their most fiery spokespersons. The Student sit in movements in Nashville with Diane Nash, C.T. Vivian and others, the North Carolina Student Movement and Albany movements led by Dr. William Anderson to name a few, in other parts of the nation; the (Southern Leadership Conference), (S.C.L.C) Revs Ralph Abernathy, Jessie Douglas Sr, Jessie Jackson and there were other leaders and organizers such as Julian Bond, John Lewis and Hosea Williams. We acknowledge the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,) led by Roy Wilkins which involved heroes like Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie. There was the Urban League and Whitney Young, and other organizations big, medium and small which gave precious time, skills and energy to make a decisive difference in the cause for human freedom.

We also remember Gloria Richardson, co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, Daisy Bates, Dorothy Haight, Jo-Ann Robinson, and the inimitable A. Philip Randolph who founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. I cannot possibly name all the great men and women, of all colors and hues, who served the cause of Freedom in our country, but they are many and mighty and we honor them all today.

But it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr who became the principal spokesperson for Civil Rights in America, the strident voice and advocate who along with Rev. James Bevel, Bayard Rustin, Wyatt T. Walker and others gave the movement the moral impetus by developing and implementing non-violent strategies and tactics. King himself could not have done the work without trusted associates and lieutenants, men and women, and the concerned masses that helped carry out the movement’s aims and objectives.

So in a larger sense as we honor Dr. King today, we also recall the countless contributions of many others, who fought, bled, died, cried, organized and mobilized with Dr. King in the Civil Rights struggle. As we honor him we also honor them.

In keeping with the subject of this day, I want to cite some important aspects of the movement and what embracing Dr. King’s legacy means for us today.

It is a Legacy of Service in the Cause of Human Freedom which Began Locally and Spread Globally.

Everything we do for the greater good has a rippling affect especially in the cause of freedom, justice, equality and human dignity. No task, how ever great or small, is wasted in the cause of uplifting and strengthening humanity both individuals and the communities in which they are called to serve.

If we are to embrace the legacy of Dr. King, we must understand it as a movement originating locally which had transforming influence globally and became a national and international movement for freedom, peace and justice. The legacy of Civil rights under Dr. King’s leadership affirms the power of local movements to have a rippling and positive global influence.

The work of Civil Rights which began long before its emergence had reverberating effects the world over. That Dr. King’s and Montgomery Improvement Associations efforts would culminate in Dr. King being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is one example of its resounding world impact.

It is in the context of the gallant quest for positive social change and freedom which began as a local movement for black dignity and black freedom protesting the onerous system of segregation in the south whose predecessor was American slavery, which transformed into reconstruction after the Civil War but later digressed to deconstruction, and then mutated into Jim and Jane Crow, thus  giving birth to the Montgomery Improvement Association and the NAACP-that later became a nonviolent movement for universal freedom, justice and equality not just for African Americans but all people waging similar sovereignty struggles for peace, freedom, equality and justice, rooted in redemption and the transforming power of love and not the love of corrupting power.

These movements include but are not limited to Caesar Chavez’s campaigns of nonviolence in the 1960’s to protest the treatment of migrant farm workers in California, the solidarity movements in Poland and freedom movements later in Czechoslovakia overthrowing communism, and more recent nonviolent revolutions such as Leyma Gbowee and the women of Liberia After a 14 year civil war and of course the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to name a few.

Scholar and theologian Walter Wink tells us that “In 1989 thirteen nations comprising 1,695,000,000 experienced nonviolent revolutions, and when the impact of all movements the world over from their genesis in human history are totaled to this day, it involves some 3 billion people who have engaged in such strategies the world over for peace, justice, equality and freedom.”

What began as a local movement for peace, freedom, equality in the American south for African Americans became a worldwide movement of positive change for people of other nations and races which spread to other continents and also inspired other sovereignty struggles for equality and justice in this nation, such as equal rights for women, the disabled (or what I prefer to call the “differently-abled), for members of the LGBTQ communities the Black Lives Matter movement, the current eco-justice movements seeking to thwart continuing eco-disasters by reducing fossil fuel dependence and preventing what Ross Gelbspan calls the boiling point, and Bill McKibben terms a world “Too hot not to notice”; it is the continued quest for clean water, clean food and clean air, and Latino and immigrant rights movements, and the rights of Muslims and all these movements which hark back to the movements of First Nations Peoples and indigenous communities in their quest for freedom and dignity and finally establishing a sustainable cooperative relationship with Mother Earth for a realizable future for all. The Iroquois Elders Seven Generations Stewardship Model is a sterling example of community decision making having a mind for impact seven generations from now. We must not only think about now but tomorrow and what the world will hold for our children and their children and their children. We must have prescience and commitment to a better world.

Many of these movements at home and abroad credit the American Civil Rights struggle as an inspiration for their work. But none of these movements could exist without selfless service from what Sly Stone calls,everyday people, without people using their gifts and talents to transform the world and its people into a better place. Dr. King and other understood this and issue the call to such service in our lifetimes.

It is a Legacy of Advocacy for Positive Political and Social Change through Nonviolent Practice.

Advocacy means action; it is the call to dutiful work and responsible engagement. It means standing for something and doing something to improve the human condition. Frederick Douglas stated that such advocacy essentially means agitation. “Agitate, Agitate, Agitate,” he would say. Gene Sharp uses the terms actionists or activists. Few if any people have written more on the subject of nonviolence than Gene Sharp. “Don’t mourn organize.” You must read Ralph Young’s excellent work, “Dissent the History of An American Idea, where he states that “King argued that if an individual believes in justice, then he or she must oppose injustice.”

I read a sign the other day that reads, “Dissent Protects Democracy.”

If we are to embrace Dr. King’s legacy we must understand that such advocacy is always acted out through various forms of nonviolent engagement, peaceful social change and coexistence which was the movement’s primary tool. It means developing a cooperative rather than destructively competitive approaches to the world, its people and resources, for there are many forms of violence ranging from poverty which stems from continuing disparities and inequalities say Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier; it is structural violence in the words of Robert McAfee Brown which involves hunger, unemployment and the unjust confiscation of resources such as 6.5 million people thrown out of their homes, it is building pipelines through sacred burial grounds of indigenous people; it means alienation, dislocation and disparagement of persons because they are different or other. It is also a form of violence involving medical experimentation says Harriet A. Washington in her book Medical Apartheid, of which I quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.”

It is not just physical violence but emotional violence, psychological violence that tears at the human heart, the human soul and spirit, a violence that degrades, demeans, devalues, under estimates, undervalues and marginalizes people in the words of Joe Madison and ultimately disposes of them says Andre Giroux. Some have said that we live in a throwaway society; that few societies throwaway its people as we do.

It is through the spirit, culture and attitude of nonviolence which respects life at every level, that recognizes and affirms, the person hood and value of each human being; it esteems the other, which compels us in the words of Krishnamurti to see others as if we are seeing them for the first time, with a fresh look, with radical awe and amazement says Abraham Joshua Heschel and a wonder that leads to further discovery of the other not as we have been culturally conditioned to see them but to see them as they truly are.

Dr. King learned from Mohandas K. Gandhi the value of collective organizing for freedom through nonviolence but also learned from the black experience under conditions of slavery and oppression the value and use of nonviolence as a tool for everyday survival.

Scholar Herbert Aptheker in his book American Negro Slave Revolts reminds us that nonviolence had always been practiced as a means of protest by African Americans against the system of slavery on a daily basis through foot dragging, disguise, camouflage, masquerade, pretended ignorance, false compliance, docility and other stratagems often ending in work stoppages and work shortages and other strategies which usually stopped shy of outright defiance.

African Americans had long been victims of unmitigated violence for centuries and had to create innovative means of survival that would preserve their dignity and humanity across many generations.

So while Gandhi, who adopted much of his core philosophy from Hinduism, Jainism, and from the teachings of Jesus to love your enemies and turn the other cheek, and implemented useful methods of collective nonviolence against the British for Indian Independence, and the American Civil Rights movement appropriated those aggregate tactics in the American South, African Americans had largely mastered nonviolence for centuries as a tool for survival from slavery to the present.

It is here in the cultivation of nonviolent methods for peaceful change appropriated by King with the help James Bevel, Bayard Rustin, and others in the American Civil Rights Movement that we begin to understand the core values of his understanding of peace.

Gandhi himself affirmed the essence of this philosophy with these words, “The only way to truly overcome an enemy is to help him become other than an enemy.”

King put it this way in the use of nonviolence: “Respect or love for opponents also has a pragmatic justification, in that the technique of separating the deeds from the doers allows for the possibility of the doers changing their behavior and perhaps their belief. Nonviolent resistance avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of the spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot or kill or harm his opponent or bring injury or to him, but he also refuses to hate him.”[18]

King also observed:

“This is not a method for cowards; it does resist. The nonviolent resister is just as strongly opposed to the evil against which he protests as is the person who uses violence…

Nonviolent resistance does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The nonviolent resister must often express his protest through noncooperation or boycotts, but he realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves; they are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent. The end is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness…

This method is that the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who are caught in those forces…”

It is here that great empathy or compassion is realized in superlative moral strength which not only takes great physical courage but great moral courage. The resistance is against evil not does not promote the annihilation of the evil doer. Theologian Matthew Fox states that compassion is our very imitation of God which follows an ancient Jewish teaching that compassion is the secret name for God, which suggests that there is no better way to demonstrate how God passes through us than carrying out our works of compassion where humanly possible.

Along with compassion there is empathy. Psychologists state
(Nation Magazine) that there are two types of empathy; emotional empathy when we feel another person’s pain, and cognitive or mental empathy where we put ourselves in another’s shoes and look at things from his or her perspective without imposing our own prejudices or preconceptions on them.

It is to feel what others feel despite their persons and what we think of them and what they do to us. It is to move beyond what one writer calls the “horns or halo” effect, where we put horns on people who harm or hurt us and never see their redemptive possibilities or the good they do and we put halos on people whom we love and favor without ever seeing the harm they do.

It is to move beyond our categorical condemnations of others because they are different or other. King understood this. All people have value. All people are created of God with inestimable worth. All people have unrealized potential. When one gets greater, everyone potentially gets greater. When a few are held back all are held back in a sense.

Along with empathy are what theologian and scholar Obery Hendricks terms the quest to live ethically which was exemplified most notably in the prophets Amos, Micah and Isaiah, who proclaimed that every person including the rich and powerful were to be governed by ethical principles in their daily lives, which included “Mishpat which means foundational egalitarian justice, tshaquah  which is justice put into action, hesed which is steadfast love in politics and civility at the least toward others, and emet which is truthfulness in public and in private.” The quest for justice is a core value of the three Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

This is one of the highest human values in King’s understanding and practice of nonviolence; not only empathy, compassion and the extraordinary power to identify with those who have harmed and wronged one but also justice, through advocacy, and agitation with civility and a commitment to do no harm to others. Maat is another term used by Africans in Egypt and in other places as a moral foundation for life and living.

Through nonviolence it is reasoned that not even the oppressor in all of his brutality and virulence can compel the nonviolent protester into harming his person by retaliating with violence. This is working and living from a position of moral and physical strength and courage and not weakness as some have stated.

It is a Legacy of Service as Inspiration for the Cause of Freedom, Justice and Equality which Strengthens American Democracy.

Thus respect of all persons is a core value of our faith traditions and is a core value of American democracy deeply rooted in the idea of the sanctity of life and the person-hood of all peoples, notwithstanding race, class, economic station, status, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability, sexual orientation or some other personal reason and became a primary principle of the nonviolent movement for social and political change in America.

The Civil Rights Movement did not weaken democracy it strengthened it. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the movement did not weaken Democracy it strengthened democracy and made it stronger and greater. Suppressing the Vote, Curtailing the vote, making it more difficult for Americans to vote is what weakens democracy and stunts it growth. Dr. King is spinning in his grave right now with all the efforts to dissuade and stop the vote.

What blesses America is diversity. What curses America is the persecution of those who are of different character and persuasion. We laud our beloved country for its wide assortment of people but we condemn its negation and persecution of people on the basis of their differences.

Spead Leas is right when he says “our successes also become our excesses.”

Poet E.E. Cummings said, “The hardest thing is for me to be myself in a world that is trying to make me like everybody else.”

The power of this legacy of human freedom rooted in the recognition and appreciation of others, that those others are me and those others are other; it is noncooperation with evil; a movement which lays claim to the best of our spiritual traditions, reaffirms the essence of true American values, heritage and identity; a movement that reasserts the highest values of American democracy; and restores a commitment to make good on America’s greatest promises of the American freedom for a people who had long been denied;

“We hold these truths to be self- evident that all men and women are created equal; that among the cherished values of this great nation are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King understood that by reaffirming the core values and promises of those three great documents of freedom for all Americans, the appeal would be to the minds, hearts and souls of every American. Why should some people have their freedoms and not all people? Why should the last applied be the most wronged and denied?

The Movement not only helped those who had been denied their rights to be lifted out of their misery and the doldrums of their despair but compelled American Democracy to move off the dime of indifference, and challenged it to grow, to stretch, to shed its old garments; to take off its grave clothes, and to mend and discard its old ways, it was a call to maturity and prosperity for all; to be somebody, to become the great nation professed in its ideals; to become a nation true to its word for all people and not just a select few; it empowered and persuaded American Democracy to grow up, to lift it arms high in the air like the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and to embrace every one of those teeming masses yearning to be free; people of every husk and hue, from every hill and hamlet, every region and race, gender and space; to expand its consciousness and to clarify, qualify and verify its true purposes and highest ideals; to forge yet again a renewed existence and shine forth its true identity; to pull its weight for everybody and to keep its commitment to all its citizens; it helped American democracy to grow into greatness by fulfilling the promises it had made to all its citizens particularly African Americans who had been here all this time but still languishing in the half houses of freedom.

“None are free until all are free,” said Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So it is necessary as citizens to stir the waters to get America out of troubled waters. Thus the call goes out to caring hearts and ready minds, those poised to do battle against every form of evil and injustice; to give credence to every citizen; every man, woman boy and girl today; to every living person then is the call to use his or her talents and gifts to not only better themselves, but to better their families and their neighborhoods, to better their communities, towns, villages and states and to better their country and improve American Representative Democracy by the using their gifts in service and advocacy to inspire those in need and by inspiring others to do the same.

For “rising tides lift all boats.”

When everybody does better everybody does better”, says Jim Hightower

It is to embrace the legacy of freedom, justice and equality and to affirm the rebuilding of infrastructures of the mind, heart, body and soul as well as the physical infrastructures of the roads and bridges and buildings of America; it is strengthening and not destroying and dismantling America, with one party rule where he who has the votes makes all the rules; we don’t need a corportocracy, kleptocracy or plutocracy but a living breathing American Democracy; it is to” leave no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored, to go through fire and water and to move heaven and earth, in the words of Addison that democracy and freedom are just not watchwords but do words, not just on America’s to do list but on America’s to be list. It not only includes the Bill of Rights and Civil Rights and Human Rights but the Economic Bill of Rights cited by Franklin Delano Roosevelt which are:

The right to useful jobs in industries, shops or farms or mines,

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation.

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home.

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

It is a movement for freedom which grants the freedom to vote and not the freedom to suppress it; if voting is the breath of democracy don’t take our breath away; it is the freedom of religion, freedom of assembly; the freedom of unions to organize; freedom to live and breathe and be; to have equal protection under the law which as American as Apple Pie, as American as Greens and Cornbread; as American as Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash, Bonnie Rait, and Nina Simone; it’s not just democracy for the few but democracy for the few, the far and the in between; To deny these gifts is to deny America to her people.

Is it a freedom where in the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karmazov where everything is permitted? No. Does Freedom from Trade Unions mean the Freedom to suppress wages, the freedom from regulation mean the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest, and design financial instruments….that throw people out of their homes and suppress dissent and engage in a kind of zombification that makes us all vestiges of the living dead than the dead who have been brought back to life.

Let me say that We love our country. Freedom also means responsibility says Eric Fromm.

We don’t want a country on life support but a country that supports all life.

We don’t want hyper bipartisanship. We want a country that sails all ships.
We don’t want a country that destroys its most precious natural resources; the water, the food and the air and then disdains the resulting sickness by repealing health care.

We don’t want a country that lives by the love of power, where greed is placed over human need but a country moved by the power of love; because everybody is a person; everybody is a child of the creator; everybody deserves to have their rights because it is right.

Democracy has not reached it’s apex; there is still more growing to do; more horizons to discover, more of America’s people needing freedom, justice and equality.

America can never be great if is principal mantra is hatred and discrimination and the suppression of the gifts of people who are different or other. The sad fact laments Alex Haley, author of Roots, is that we might have had a cure for cancer by now. When one is limited all are limited for we are the beneficiaries of each others achievements.

These movements for American freedom not only make the people better and greater but make America better and greater, it makes democracy better and greater by pushing it to realize, fulfill and embody its highest ideals and promises, inspires it to actualize its foundational principles and greatest potential, its core values not just for a few but for all.

When Donald Trump, the President Elect, campaigned on the promise of making America great again, many have expressed what he meant when he said this.

In giving Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt, it is my belief that perhaps what he meant when he made this statement is that there was a time when America led the world in manufacturing shortly after World War II; a time many Americans had good paying jobs and unions had a strong hand and helped mold the American Middle Class; a time when the garment label read, “made in America” which was not a joke but gave all Americans a sense of pride. Perhaps he meant a time when Republicans and Democrats talked with each other and not at each other across the aisle; and did not engage in resentment or piñata politics we see so much today; a time when however depressing and oppressing life may have been for many Americans, they still held out hope for a better life and a brighter tomorrow; they could see signs of a better world flourishing in their midst; a time of hope that burned every so brightly and whatever their lot or lament they knew deep down in their hearts that one day all things would change for the better.

There was a time when people raised their expectations of the better life of freedom justice and equality for all Americans as opposed to lowering their expectations and resigning themselves to hopelessness.

This freedom involves the freedom to question where our country is going and working hard to see that it does not go over the cliff.

“The issue is not big government or small government but bad versus good government, well government versus ill government.”

We are all family. To embrace Kings’ legacy to is affirm the power of service and the service of power in the best interests of all Americans.

I close with this story. I have gone on much too long. It is the story of an elderly white couple who wanted to learn as much about all their families members as they could. And so they decided to have a family gathering which was part reunion for members who already knew each other and a chance for unknown family members to meet for the first time. The gathering would last seven days and commence July 4.

They began calling together as many families members as they could and spent months researching, identifying and locating them. The end of the event would culminate in a family portrait which would be taken by local photographers and sent to family members after the event. After doing the research with their aides, over one thousand two hundred invitations went out and the couple were super excited about what the event would yield.

And so family members began coming to town to convene at the couple’s seven thousand acre estate. And boy did they come. White people came which was expected, and then some black folks came which was not expected, and then some family members in wheel chairs came which opened many eyes and then some same gender couples showed up. Conservative and progressive Christians waltzed in, and some members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths showed up, even some Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Green Party and other party members and even aristo-cats came to the party. There were Latinos, Mexicans, Arabs, Chaldeans, Asians, First Nation Peoples and people from India and Pakistan. Some family members dressed from the forties stopped by. Some blind people came in then some crazy folks who showed up came in bumming money from other family members; several homeless war vets came to town.  And on and and on and on. They came in fancy cars. They came on motorcycles, broke down cars and some people caught the bus and others walked from the airport.

The couple was completely amazed and unfazed of the great variety of people whom they learned were immediate and distant family members. Some of the family members left the event, embarrassed that the “Jefferson’s would welcome the Hemmings as family members,” but the party went on. It was a beautiful sight. A festive occasion where they all talked about their connections to the family; how they came to be family members either by birth or by marriage. But they spent time those seven days getting to know each other and learned how much they all held in common. Before the event was over they had begun calling themselves family. They even made plans to reunite again in three years.

When the event was over photographers took the countless rolls of film to be developed, and after going into the dark room and the pictures were developed, two staff assistants began cutting out pictures of the dark people, and folks with Turbans and other folks that dressed funny and looked funny and other people in the family because they did not like what they saw.

The photographers created their own family portrait by cutting out images of the folks they thought should not be in the picture.

When the couple arrived to get the final portrait they were horrified at what the film developers had done.

What have you done said the man?

We decided to modify and touch up some of the images of those folks that we didn’t think you wanted in the picture. We didn’t think you really wanted them in the portrait because we kept seeing the surprised look on your face when those people started coming in so we decided to just cut them out.

What! Are you kidding me?” quipped the man. “That was the purpose of the meeting. You had no right to cut them out of my picture. This is my family. They are my people. They belong in this picture. You have no right to destroy our beautiful family picture.”

“If you want to get paid for this job, I would suggest that you go back and find a way to reinsert every person that you took a picture and put them back into my portrait.”

The photographers did as they were told and a beautiful portrait went out to all the couple’s family members.

And that’s what Dr. King tried to remind us: that we are all part of the American family; the family of humanity. Everything that he lived, worked and died for was to drive home this point. He used the language of family by calling white people his brothers and sisters. Check the family metaphors in his work. He acknowledged their pain and the pain of other human beings too, because whether we like it or not we are all in this together.

We are all Americans whether we like it or not and we all deserve our rights and our freedoms. We arrived on different ships but we are all in the same ship as Americans.

So I say in conclusion today in light of my three points that we must stop cutting out of the American family picture the images people we don’t like or don’t believe deserve to be in that portrait.

“Our independence” in the words of John Avlon, “is inseparable from out interdependence.”

We need to stop cutting folks out and start cutting folks in. Stop the politics of dismemberment.

We cut too much. What we need to cut out is foolishness, cut out selfishness and nearsightedness; we must cut out the denigration and devaluation of of our family members. We must cut out unbridled greed, cut out is all this craziness which which cuts off our liberties, cuts off our freedoms, cuts off our potential,  our humanity, mutual respect, our power, our future and our country.

Stop cutting members of the family out of the picture.

Stop cutting their pensions. Stop cutting their Medicare. Stop cutting their Medicaid. Stop cutting their affordable health care especially when you don’t have a replacement plan. Stop speaking of cutting their social security. Stop cutting the taxes of folks who can afford to pay their taxes and want to pay their taxes because in the words of one millionaire they don’t want to be rich people living in a poor country. Why would you take the bread from the little man and give it to the big man who has so much bread it’s rotting in the warehouse?

How will we prosper as country when we cut off the very people who helped to build this country, the little man, the every man and every woman; the men and women on whose shoulders we stand in America. For when all is said and done we are all family and we need to use our gifts to build each other up and not tear each other down or tear our country down. Stop cutting your family members out of the American dream.

When your only tool is knife or a pair of scissors you see all problems as meatloaf or something or somebody to cut.

We are all Americans. We are all part of the same family. We are all people created by God. We are all part of this great nation and helped to make it great so stop cutting the people off and cutting the people out of their fair share of the dream; that’s what Dr. King was saying and is saying to us today.

Stop cutting people off and start cutting people in. Stop cutting off dialogue in Congress; stop cutting off the air waves, if voting is the breath of democracy stop cutting off our breath, cutting off our health, stop cutting off our life; stop cutting off any and everything you don’t like because you are cutting the life line of our country.

The resources of America don’t belong to you alone. So stop talking about cutting people off; stop talking about welfare and handouts. The things you are cutting people earned the right to have. And besides the original welfare state in America was slavery for which our ancestors didn’t get a dime. You are not giving a hand out but a hand up. It’s the people’s money anyway, not your money.

And if we can just get over it just get folks to stop cutting people out and start cutting people into the American dream and we will become greater and stronger and better than we have ever been as a nation.

This is what Dr. King lived, worked and died for. This was his country. This is your country and this is my country too. This our my country too.

Don’t start going backwards America. So stop killing off and cutting off our democracy. Start following the rules put in place. Don’t kill your country save you country. Who serves his country best services his party best!

My country tis of thee sweet land of liberty of thee I sing. Land of the pilgrim’s pride, land where my fathers and mothers bled, cried and died, from every mountain side let freedom ring.”

To embrace the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr it is to make ourselves and our country better through selfless service, through endless sacrifice by using our talents and gifts, by persistent advocacy through nonviolence that sees and treats every living soul as a real person, the created of God, with gifts and hopes and dreams which will make not only themselves better but all of America better.

When we get stronger America gets stronger. When America gets stronger we all get stronger.

Let freedom ring. Embrace King’s legacy of service, advocacy and inspiration so when we get better the world gets better.

May America and her people rise to be all that they can be!

God bless America and God Bless all of her people. God bless the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his great legacy of Civil Rights, Non-Violent Action and engagement as we are empowered to strengthen America!

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