Monday, January 9, 2012


Martin Luther King at Riverside Church NYC-- "Beyond Vietnam" speech

The young Ghanaian docent at the W.E.B. Dubois Memorial Center, half a block away from where my brother was working in Accra at the 2010 U.S. Embassy [our newest, biggest, most fortified in Africa], answered with no hesitation.  “I’d recommend Dubois’ The Souls of Black Folks for a first reading of his work.”  The young man had volunteered to take me through the exhibits, though I’d arrived just minutes before afternoon closing time.  He was proud to have shown me something of the life of this African American who’d come back to Africa, after speaking & writing so eloquently & courageously for just recognition of his people in the USA.   Both sides of the Atlantic, Dubois inspired many.  [For a history see ]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "… history cannot ignore W.E.B. DuBois because history has to reflect truth and Dr. DuBois was a tireless explorer and a gifted discoverer of social truths. His singular greatness lay in his quest for truth about his own people. There were very few scholars who concerned themselves with honest study of the black man and he sought to fill this immense void. The degree to which he succeeded disclosed the great dimensions of the man." 
Dr. King went on to help lead a civil rights movement that put into practice the scholarly quest for justice well expressed by Dr. Dubois.  Rev. Martin Luther King then went even beyond faithful determined advocacy for his race, appealing for an end to our unjust war in Vietnam. 

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”  Dr King knew that the God’s nonviolent love was the only way to defeat this evil.
“When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: ‘Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.’ ”

A year to the day after this “Beyond Vietnam” speech against war & violence, Martin Luther King was shot dead by an assassin in Memphis, TN while helping to organize city garbage workers.  A great loss to all who believe in the way the truth and the life, in doing for others as you would have them do for you, in a God who loves across all cultures extending to all peoples—no privileges, no discriminations.  [For full speech, audio & print, see ]
The death of Dr. King , April 4, 1968
While serving in medical clinics and learning from another culture--Tila, small town of Chiapas, Mexico--I’ve encountered a sacred image of Jesus that coincides with recognition of Martin Luther King, whose national holiday is now celebrated in the U.S. on Jan. 15th.  This day also, for centuries, has been the feast day of Nuestro Senor de Tila, the miraculous Black Crucified Christ in Chiapas, where the indigenous decedents of the Mayas have long struggled for their civil and land rights.  Their devotion to Nuestro Senor gives great strength to their effort.
Cristo Negro de Portobelo                                                                                         Nuestro Senor de Tila
El Cristo Negro, the Black Christ, is a recurring image of imprecise origin in the Caribbean, and the greater area of Spanish colonization.  [More investigation of this another day.]  There’s a Cristo Negro de Portobelo, Panama, and one also as far north as Chimayo, New Mexico.  The suffering, and healings, and resurrection of El Cristo Negro have resonated, through 500 years of devotions, with black African and brown indigenous peoples who’d been enslaved, and continue to work to throw of those chains. 

From Africa to Memphis to Mexico we follow the star that promises justice, leading to the Savior born in a stable.
African Art--The Magi Visit Jesus

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