1. Monday, January 19, 2004

    today in america, 

    mlk day

    a lot of us are getting the day off to celebrate the birth of the Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important Americans ever.

    his birthday was really on friday, but whatev. lots of people in america Don’t get the day off at all. they work for companies who dont recognize the only federal holiday to commemorate an african american.

    this year he would have been 75.

    if he hadnt been shot

    for saying, wtf, i thought we were in america.

    mlk lived in a time when it wasnt unusual to get shot for what you said especially if you were saying things that would make life more even for blacks here in the home of the brave.

    dr. king delivered his “i have a dream” speech to a quarter million people next to the reflecting pools in august of 1963, he was 34.

    maybe one reason that some people have a hard time grasping the importance of mlk is that when many of us look back at the 60s we see it as a time of great change in civil rights and social acceptance, but the summer of ’63 wasnt the summer of ’69.

    ’63 was the year that valium was invented. a year that the andy williams show, the dick van dyck show, and walt disney’s wonderful world of color were winning emmys in variety, comedy, and childrens programming respectively.

    the most aggressive thing happening in music was that the beatles were writing i wanna hold your hand.

    tony bennet and ella fitzgerald were winning grammys for best male and female solo vocal perfomance respectively.

    the grammys named peter paul and mary the best group due to their hit, if i had a hammer.

    so when martin luther king got on that podium and said that he had a dream of little black kids walking down the street holding the hands of little white kids, that was probably as punk rock as it got in those lilly white days before the civil rights act.

    nowadays we cant even imagine a time when you needed federal laws to guaranteed equal rights in housing, public facilities, voting and public schools. that we would need a constitutional fine-tuning so that everyone would have impartial hearings and jury trials.

    martin luther kings life and death remind us that there was such a time, not that long ago. in america.

    the beautiful.

    and less than two months after that speech. jfk was shot.

    lee harvey oswald was shot two days after that.

    This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

    And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

    Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

    Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

    Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

    But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

    Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

    When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

    oliver willis + american black + negrophile + bunnie mac + baldilocks + watch citizen king tonight on pbs