I can remember so well the day that I heard the news that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. I was working at the University of Chicago Hospitals – I was in my last year of college. I did not know what this event would mean for me personally – but like everyone else, I felt the effect of this death in a profound way.
As the months went by, there was an escalation of militancy within the Black community. Feelings that nonviolence were not going to bring any lasting results, made many feel as if the more militant approach of Malcolm X and the Black Panthesr was the best way to go. In addition, scores of people who were frustrated with their living conditions took to the streets in looting and vandalism. This was also the year of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago – to say that there were heightened tensions would be an understatement. As if things couldn’t get worst, the CTA went on strike. September was approaching, student teaching was on my schedule, the question, how was I going to get to the school?
Fortunately, I was in walking distance (a very long walk) to the school. It was manageable. My hesitation came because the street I had to go down was controlled by a local gang, it was frightening to say the least. Me, trying to go down 20-25 blocks, by myself to make it to my school. Yet, I did it. I learned early in life, you do what you have to do. Necessity trumps fear!
Looking back on that year, I realize something that even now I need to be reminded of; I had to keep the main thing the main thing,. My entire future at that time hinged on me completing school. This was my final requirement. I could have said that the dangers were too great, I needed to take off a semester – maybe got a job! If I had made that choice, how different my life would have been. For, even though I was not a practicing Christian at that time, being tossed to and fro with Black liberation theory and other ideologies resistant to Christianity, there was a nudge in my confused heart that saw only one alternative – and that was the course I had set out to do. I can’t say how many benefits it has led to for me over the years – I always had work – I had many rewarding experiences – and I enjoy a good recompense for my labor.
Fast forward to today. I am looking at a divided nation. Clearly, militancy has escalated on both sides of the aisle. We are also a nation that is living in a postmodern relativism where truth is subject to the individual – there are no standing cultural mores to guide our national conduct. Dr. King had a tremendous effect on my young life, pushing me forward in my high school years to take a stand for what I believed in – and that was equal opportunity for all. By the grace given him, he spoke many profound words of truth that are just as true today. There is one quote that stands out to me:
I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I stand on this today, for with all that is going on, it’s the closest to what I have to believe:
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 (KJV)