The 1930’s, “old world”, was engulfed with segregation, riots, and wars. People of color were separated and isolated in restricted areas such as schools, buses, barber shops, libraries, and churches. White schools were large and made out of brick. Black schools were small and made out of wood. Blacks were only allowed to sit in specified areas on buses and were only able to read in designated areas in the library. This “old world” was filled with racism, prejudice, and hatred.
The civil rights movement played a huge part in transforming the “old world” into a “new world”. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the head “Drum Major” leading this civil rights movement. During his life of thirty nine years, Dr. King preached many sermons, lead several freedom marches, and encouraged many people. During Dr. King’s life of thirty nine years he inspired many people to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
Unfortunately, on April 4, 1968 Dr. King’s earthly life in the “old world” ended through a senseless act; an assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This day, April 4th , has always been a monumental day to me. Not only is it the day Dr. King was assassinated, it is my birthday. For the past thirty eight years of my life, I have carried much respect for Martin Luther King, Jr. I respect the courage and strength Dr. King exhibited during these years of segregation my parents and grandparents lived in and experienced. I will always remember listening to the stories my Mom would tell me about playing high school basketball in segregated schools. Before my visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Atlanta, Georgia I had no clue how many different people and groups Dr. King peacefully impacted. I did not realize the extent of the power Dr. King’s sermons and speeches had on thousands of people to transform our “old” segregated world into a peaceful integrated “new” world. Before my visit to the memorial, I didn’t fully understand or respect the peaceful influence Dr. King contributed to many people. All fights do not have to be fought with war in order to win. After viewing the sites and exhibits at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial I carry a more deeper appreciation for Dr. King’s peaceful fight for justice. Listening to his voice through speeches, looking at the pictures in the gallery, and reading the engravings on the tomb enhanced my appreciation for the sacrifices Dr. King and his family made for the integrated world we live in today, the “new world”. I am very thankful for all the perseverance and agape love Dr. King and his family exhibited during these hard, segregated years. His love was a true, unconditional love for God as well as a love for freedom for all.
Today, many people around the world carry negative feelings about others different from them in skin color. Dr. King describes it best in his sermon Levels of Love dated September 16, 1962 when he speaks about the conversation he had with a white man he met in Albany, Georgia. The white man said, “I used to love the Negro, but I don’t have the kind of love for them as I used to.” After viewing the memorial sites, reading Dr. King’s sermons, and hearing his voice through videos, I realized we still have a long way to go in this integrated world we live in that I now refer to as the “new world.” Even though the civil right movement Dr. King lead demolished segregation in schools, buses, and libraries there are still glimpses of hatred among people of different colors, words of slang used in many conversations and actions streaming today which resemble the old segregated world. Take for example the worship hour on Sunday. This hour of worship is one of the most segregated hours during the week. Spiritual transformation and spiritual practices help us today continue to strive for the best world; a world filled full with peace. Trips to places of peace such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Atlanta, Georgia provide us with visual glimpses of how much damage hatred and evilness can do to people of all colors and religions. Trips to places of peace and remembrance can also provide us with faith, hope and love for the future. Dr. King’s wife, Coretta’s tomb is a visual reminder of the three gifts that now abide; faith, hope and love. With agape love being the greatest gift provided to us by God.
As Christians strive to be “Drum Majors” for peace, we must constantly continue to seek justice in this broken world we live in. Micah 6:8 reminds us to continue serving so we can reserve our seat at the left and right hand of Jesus. As Christians, we need to continue to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly for all; No matter the color of people’s skin, the size of people’s bank account, or the level of education people earn. We, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Drum Majors” for justice, travel roads much like the “Freedom Road.” Our journey of justice along the freedom road forces us to ask ourselves the question what are we doing for others? We are forced by Micah 6:8 and Mark 12:30,31 to continue to strive for complete transformation of a “new world”. A “new world” full of love, peace, and equality for all. We must continue to love the lord God with all our heart, mind, and soul; and love our neighbor as ourselves. We must even love our enemies. This is hard. Loving our enemies is very hard. This type of unconditional, agape love is hard but very important. This type of love is important because it is what will bring peace to our suffering world. Without agape love, we will have a distorted personality and the “old world” of sin, hatred, segregation, and darkness will slowly take back over. Learning to love unconditionally and help others allows us to continue to grow close to God and allows our spiritual formation to transform into a “new world” full of peace and joy meant for all.
Jacqueline M. Martin
Looking for additional reading:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Levels of Love,” Sermon Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church
16 September 1962 Atlanta, GA
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last Sermon Preached before his assassination at Ebenezer Baptist Church
4 February 1968 Atlanta, GAThe “Drum Major” Instinct