The first time I saw Coretta Scott King was at a Morehouse College King Day celebration my freshman year in college, January 2001. It was a surreal experience. She stood and greeted the audience as the host introduced her. There seemed to be an angelic glow around her. You know the foggy haze you see in movies…although I’m sure that was my imagination. In my memory, I was so close to her, but in reality, I’m not sure that wasn’t true either. I stood frozen…in awe. Her beauty, her elegance, her essences, she exuded womanly perfection, and at that moment, I became fully aware and overwhelmed by the King legacy.
That was my first adult experience with the King legacy. It was the first of many experiences (e.g. hearing Bernice speak, hearing Coretta speak, studying Kings’ writings, Coretta’s funeral, visiting the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, etc.) that would change my understanding of who Dr. King was and why, in fact, his life was so important to black America, America, and the world. As an adult, I’ve learned countless things about MLK that aren’t taught in school. Below are four, I’ll share today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t a good man; he was a God man. In school, you learn of the great things King was able to accomplish, but never do schools delve into what inspired or sustained him. Dr. King was a modern-day Moses chosen by God to lead a lost people to freedom. He spoke with God and carried out His plan. How else can you explain a man repeatedly placing himself and his family in harm’s way? What else would give a man the strength to endure brutal violence in a non-violent manner? How else can you explain the life that he lived?
MLK’s rolodex was off the chain. One of my twitfam once said, “All black people who can read know each other.” From studying Dr. King’s life, this is not a new phenomenon. Dr. King’s contact book read like a history book. He was connected to every civil rights leader you could imagine, plus an endless number of U.S. politicians and world leaders.
The world was watching Dr. King’s movement. Dr. King’s civil rights movement wasn’t a southern thing or an American thing…it was a world thing. The entire world was watching what was happening in America. This caused Dr. King to garner respect and adoration from people throughout the world. This is seen through his invitations to Ghana’s independence and to visit India where many of his nonviolent practices originated.
People in America despised King. This fact is often forgotten in the elaborate MLK celebrations that occur throughout the country each year. King threatened the stability of a country and an order that had long ruled life. He was asking a privileged people to share their rights, freedoms and privileges with others. How could America embrace and love someone who was attempting to interrupt their whole way of life?
As a child, I admired the legacy of King that was presented in front of me. But as an adult, I also respect the man who sacrificed so much for a people and a world that was often (and still is) ungrateful and uncaring. It’s ironic that I would embrace King so. The running joke in my family is I couldn’t have marched with King. He was too slow, too nice, too patient. I would’ve have aligned myself with the Black Panthers and ran around blowing stuff up, lol. Good news is I’ve grown. I now understand living a life of non-violence…and the sacrifices that come with it.