One of the books that I continue to revisit is A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This book includes 11 of Dr. King’s most influential speeches, among them, I Dream a Dream, Eulogy for the Young Victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing, Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize, Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March, and I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.
During this season of reflection, between the MLK holiday and Black History Month, many folks talk about the I Have a Dream speech. Aside from that speech, I find Dr. King’s I’ve Been to the Mountaintop riveting. It’s prophetic like Moses’ final words to the Israelites before they cross into the Promised Land. The words remind the people that they have come a long way together, but there is still so much work to do, and they must not grow weary on the journey. Furthermore, they must not depend on their trusted leader to go with them, but rather they must depend on God, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6 [NIV]).”
Each speech has an introduction written by soldiers who accompanied Dr. King on his dream journey. Soldiers like John Lewis, Ambassador George McGovern, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Andrew Young provide introductions which also speak to their legacies and triumph to overcome evil with good. Through their introductions, soldiers like Rosa Parks, Aretha Franklin, and Dr. Dorthy Height remind us that women too were partakers in the fight. Their introductions provide the behind the scenes stories which surrounded the electrifying speeches.
Perhaps more important than the names of these heroes, are all the nameless faces and people whom they represent. So many of those who sat down (like the Freedom Riders or the countless young college students of North Carolina A&T and Bennett College who took rotations at the Wooldworth’s Lunch Counter) or stood up to proclaim, “I am somebody” or I am a Man.
Their stories should call us all to a place of consciousness. We should pause to reflect on who we really are…where we have been individually and collectively as communities and citizens of this country. Their stories should cause us to intently think about our futures. What kind of imprint or legacy do you want to leave? How will you make this world a better place? How will you impact or change someone’s life for the better?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013