What if Dr.King were never born?
Defender of the poor and disenfranchised
Defender of the poor and disenfranchised, tireless warrior for peace and human rights, fighter for equality, peerless orator—Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. stands as one of theshining icons of the 20th century. On the eveof his birthday, January 15, King is remembered as a man who truly believed in thewords “justice for all.” King’s legacy remains unparalleled—a man of principal who rose from humble beginnings and galvanized the world through his vigilant fight for civil rights.
The champion of non violence was instrumental in ridding the country of segregation and helped to usher in a new era of voting rights for African Americans. King’s lasting legacy of non-violence and hisuntiring crusade against discrimination has continued to touch countless people from allstrata of society and from all walks of life. But what if the civil rights leader had neverbeen born? How would the country faretoday without the far-reaching influence of King?
Our Weekly posed this intriguing question to a cross section of citizens and community leaders. In your opinion, what would be the state of Black America today if Dr. King had never existed?
Bishop H. H. Brookins, former pastor ofthe First African Methodist Episcopal churchand former bishop of California, was a personal friend of King’s who played host to the civil rights giant on his first trip to California. “King was a guest in my home,”Brookins said, recalling that King traveled from Atlanta to the Golden State to further the message of civil rights.
'“King was phenomenal,”he added. “He was an excellentorator and speaker.” Brookins accompanied King to Wrigley Field in 1960, when King electrified the crowd of 40,000 with a civil rights speech. “He had risen so rapidly above the masses, people looked at him with awe,” Brookins remembers. Brookins addedthat King’s efforts to rid the country of segregation and prejudice continue to reverberate throughout society.
“The state of blackAmerica would be very dismal, very down trodden if King had not existed,” Brookins noted. “King brought a glimmer of hope that we had not experienced before, because he lifted the load from our backs and gave us areason to believe that the world would bebetter.”Sha’ron Wright, a Skid Row resident, felt that if King had never existed, society would be much worse.
“King brought ustogether in unity, but there’s no unity (inblack America) right now,” Wright observed.“When he was alive, blacks were comingtogether, but the way things are today, I seehow blacks interact with each other, and there’s really no unity.”Ken Ryans, a grocery store clerk also residing on Skid Row, stated that King’sinfluence was immeasurable.
“I think that segregation would still exist and that (blacks)would probably be in the same situation aswe were in the ‘30s through the ‘50s,” Ryansobserved. “I remember Jim Crow laws, andDr. King played a very important part inerasing those laws. Also, if it wasn’t forKing, I don’t think that the Civil Rights Actwould have been passed.” Ryans added thathe thought the passage of the Civil Rights Act was a very important step, not only for black people, but for white people as well.“It sensitized white people to the point that they could experience what minorities had togo through,” Ryans said. “If King hadn’t been alive, there’s no telling what the world would be like now.
”Lou Dantzler, executive director of the Challengers Boys and Girls Club, founded the after-school organization shortly afterKing’s assassination in 1968. “I was touchedby his death,” said Dantzler, who migrated toCalifornia from North Carolina during the‘60s and founded his non-profit organization for youth shortly after King’s passing. Todate, his organization has served more than35,000 young people.
“I felt I could followhis example of making a difference in the lifeof young people,” reflected Dantzler. “If ithad not been for King, I don’t know wherewe would be today—I think our society would be more violent and people would not respect each other as much.”Mayme Clayton, president and founderof the Western States Black Research Educational Center, who has amassed the largest collection of African-American memorabiliaon the West Coast, remembered Kingas a “giant of a man.” Clayton also witnessed the civil rights leader speak at Wrigley’s Field.
“I got to shake his hand, “Clayon recalled. “He was a wonderful person,he treated everyone nicely like he knew them for years.” As for his legacy of nonviolence and peace, Clayton added that King’s influence cannot be measured. “MartinLuther King was an inspiration for all black people. He led us from nowhere to somewhere,”Clayton observed. “I think wewould be a lost generation without his influence and it would take another person like King to accomplish what he did. He was the leader for that time and he did a remarkable job uniting black people. ”James Fugate, co-owner of Eso WonBooks, said he felt that the question proposing the non-existence of King was a thought provoking one.
“That’s a complex question,”declared Fugate. “If Dr. King hadn’t come along, I believe another leader would have arrived, because there were other people during that time who were very intelligent and who could have led.” Fugate noted that King came to prominence after the early ‘50s onthe heels of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
“During that period there was a grass-roots movement growing,so I think (the civil rights movement) would have happened anyway,” said Fugate.“Without King’s input, however, I think we would still be mired in the conditions that are still unconscionable today, such as poverty, poor school systems, and segregation. It would be interesting to see what Dr. King would think about the current state of black America,” Fugate reflected. “A large percentage of us are still mired in poverty.
I feel that there are those of us who aren’t doing enough to alleviate the conditions that blacks are living under today.”Tom Hamilton, also co-owner of EsoWon Books, said, ”I think society would bethe same. Great men come and go, and therewere other great men around at that time as well as King. King’s impact was great, but somebody else would have come along and filled his shoes,” said Hamilton.Rev. Jim Lawson, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and former pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, was also a personal friend of King. “I knew King for 11 years,”declared Lawson, who was persuaded by King to move to the South and participate inthe movement.
“He recruited me to be onthe staff of SCLC as a volunteer in 1960,”Lawson recalled. “I saw him many times over the years. He was a very collected, poised human being. He was an ordinary man with an extraordinary mission.” Lawsonwas the chairperson of the sanitation strike in Memphis, Tenn., when King arrived in thecity to aid the strike for black sanitation workers in the city. “I saw him twice on April 4, 1968, the day he was assassinated,”recalled Lawson.
“Because Dr. King did live and willingly gave his life for 1,300 garbageworkers in Memphis, we are a better people in the United States.
Had King not lived, the United States would be much more of anapartheid state and racism would be more over than it is today.”Laura Hendrix, owner of Gallery Plus, stated that “If Dr. King hadn’t come along, African Americans wouldn’t be as far along in society as we are now. Even leaders who came after King were not able to pick up where he left off.
”Hendrix added that shewas impressed with what King accomplished as far as helping to pass legislation for civil rights, especially during a time when blacks were vigilantly boycotting for their rights. “I was very impressed that King was in the fore front with the marchers and the sit-ins. I also remember the speeches that he wrote while he was incarcerated in the Birmingham jail. I never realized how much of an impact those speeches made on different people, including myself. Overall, King really made a difference in my life and in society.
”Ahneva Ahneva, a clothes designer inLeimert Park, declared, “If Dr. Martin Luther King had not been born, this world would still be full of hatred and people would be walking around in distrust and paranoia. I think the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King was born and promoted ‘peace and goodwill to all men’ made people think that instead of terror or violence, they had to first think of peace.
So, I think his impact is that he gave us a mind-set that eliminated the first thought of violence and replaced it with the first thought of peace. If Dr.Martin Luther King had not been alive, this world would be a much more violent place. My prayer is that one day, there will be a time when we are all brothers and sisters and the world will be at peace.”
In an affair replete with symbolic doubles, President Barack Hussein Obama will re-take the oath of office as head of government in the United States of America on Sunday, Jan. 20, and again on Jan. 21, which is also officially the national Martin Luther King holiday. This will be the 57th inauguration ceremony for an American president, although Mr. Obama remains the 44th president of the United States.
It may have been fate that brought the Somerville Hotel into existence just in time to house attendees to the first West Coast convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1928. The hotel was completed in June of that year. The 19th annual convention was held that same month.
On August 28, 2011, a day chosen to celebrate the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech on the Washington Mall, another major milestone will occur. For the first time in American history, a centerpiece construction of a permanent stone and bronze monument will be erected in the nation’s capital for an African American who was not a former American president.
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Many would agree the Black middle and upper classes have contributed greatly to the success of the American society over the last century, but questions still linger as to whether or not they are doing enough for the rest of Black America.
This is either year two or year one of the Decade of the African Diaspora (DOAD), depending on how you are counting. For yours truly, and the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC) organization, which jointly declared the decade, it is year one. Last year, was the period of announcement and dissemination of information regarding the DOAD. Work not already begun, begins now.