Thursday, April 4, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr: 45 years ago and the next 50 days

“The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.” -Dr. Martin Luther King

 Forty five years ago today on April 4, 1968 at 8:05pm EST the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was pronounced dead after having been shot by a sniper wielding a 30.06 rifle at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis Tennessee. The symbolism of the nonviolent icon, considered by many to be an American Moses was assassinated in a city named after the ancient city of Memphis where the original Moses worshiped gives one pause.

The night before his murder, Reverend King made one of his most powerful and prophetic speeches, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" in which he foresaw the possibility of an untimely death: 
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!
Unfortunately, the assassination of a nonviolent leader such as Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States was preceded twenty years earlier by the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi in India on January 30, 1948. Forty four years later the assassination of  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero in Cuba on July 22, 2012.

What is interesting is what occurs in the aftermath of the deaths of these nonviolent leaders? In the case of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi enough time has passed that a legacy is visible. Gandhi's grandson, Arun Gandhi, began a Season for Nonviolence in 1998. The Season of Nonviolence has been held every year since then between January 30 and April 4th. Now The King Center based in Atlanta, Georgia has initiated 50 days of nonviolence beginning on April 4th to curb youth violence in the United States. This is also a wonderful opportunity to learn about nonviolent resistance to injustice and is part of the positive legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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