April 5, 2008

Redeeming Oppression?

Today is the birth date of Booker T Washington in 1856. Yesterday was remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination 40 years ago.

I've read Booker's autobiography Up From Slavery. It was a good read. He was so much a part of reconstruction of the rubble of the South and the repercussion of slavery. His legacy is not just what he accomplished himself, but what he helped thousands of others accomplish--both black and white.

I'm old enough to have vivid memories of the day John F Kennedy was assassinated. School was a very quiet place other than all the teachers crying. And I remember all Saturday morning cartoons and regular programming on the few networks were dominated by his funeral and the constant replay of the open convertible car scene.

Kennedy and King were both at the beginnings of every home having a TV. Though slavery was abolished in the 1860s, blacks were not free. We saw that on TV. Though Martin Luther King Jr learned from Gandhi, OT Daniel and his three friends, and early Christians, that nonviolent resistance is the way to bring change, we did see violence. I hold these images still in my memory too. 

King clung to nonviolence because he profoundly believed that only a movement based on love could keep the oppressed from becoming a mirror image of their oppressors ... Nonviolence, he believed, "will save the Negro from seeking to substitute one tyranny for another." 

King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Philip Yancey in his Soul Survivor has a chapter on Martin Luther King Jr and says, "Because he stayed faithful, in the short view by offering his body as a target but never as a weapon, and in the long view by holding before us his dream of a new kingdom of peace and justice and love, he became a prophet for me, the unlikeliest of followers."

Above Picture by Jacob Lawrence

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