The following was posted earlier today, Jan. 19, 2015 by my colleague Rosemary Weatherston as an email communication to her colleagues on this special day. My pardons for being almost a day late. For those keeping score at home, I am also a dollar short today.
“Deeds, not words.”
I have heard this thought expressed many times recently. It’s spoken with a conviction that words have done little to change things in desperate need of change. Words are empty or, worse, they are smokescreens used to cover over unforgivable deeds. And yet, when thinking today of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it seems impossible to separate the man of action from the man of words. I can’t envision the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom without hearing in my mind the cadences of Dr. King’s Dream. I can’t read “Letter From Birmingham Jail” without recalling the narrow cell in which King was imprisoned when he wrote.
“Beloved community,” “a single garment of destiny,” “I have a dream”—these are words of inspiration. These are the first words my daughters will hear in their grade school assemblies this week. But they are words of challenge, too—to us, and for us. How are we to think of violence and nonviolence in the wake of Ferguson, or New York, or Southfield? “I am at war with myself / Having trouble finding the Martin in me,” reveals Obasi Davis, a young poet from Oakland, CA, “Too much anger / Not enough tolerance.”
And yet, today people are gathering to speak with one another. People will come together to remember, and wrestle with, and re-vision communities in which so much is in need of change. I think of Dr. King, and I am both confronted and inspired by the thought it might always take both words and deeds.
“So it shall be spoken,” writes Gwendolyn Brooks in her tribute poem below, “So it shall be done.”
Director, Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture7
“Martin Luther King Jr.“
By Gwendolyn Brooks
A man went forth with gifts.
He was a prose poem.
He was a tragic grace.
He was a warm music.
He tried to heal the vivid volcanoes.
His ashes are
reading the world.
His Dream still wishes to anoint
the barricades of faith and of control.
His word still burns the center of the sun,
above the thousands and the
The word was Justice. It was spoken.
So it shall be spoken.
So it shall be done.
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