photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr., taken by Dick DeMarsico via Wikipedia
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
We need to keep on dreaming and keep on working for a better future. I was saddened and frustrated to hear about these two recent incidents:
I don’t post a lot about pop culture, but these two headlines grabbed my attention. What is wrong with people? So hurtful and bigoted.
And this is why I felt uneasy about so much of the negativity I read after the passing of Amiri Baraka. The poet wasn’t one to mince words, and while I don’t agree with everything he said … neither did he: there were times he moved away from earlier statements. Yet one must think about the time period in which he grew up and was writing — the March on Washington, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the assassination of Malcolm X, the publication of Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster“ – and not be blind to the racism many people still face today. Sometimes strong rhetoric is needed to get one’s point across.
Stuart Mitchner’s “Looking for Amiri Baraka and LeRoi Jones on Martin Luther King’s Birthday” sheds some much-needed perspective on Baraka’s poetry and tells of Baraka’s tribute at the 2011 Community Celebration of King at the University of Virginia.
Baraka’s work through the Black Arts Movement gave others a voice.
We need writers to continue to challenge the status quo. We need writers to share their experience. We need writers to share their dreams. We need writers to share their nightmares. We need writers to be honest.
We cannot censor writers. We need to give writers a larger platform.
We need readers to read widely. We need readers to read outside of their personal experiences. We need readers to go straight to the source. We need readers who don’t rely on recaps, articles, blog entries, and soundbites. We need readers to speak up for the types of books they want to read.
This isn’t about school assemblies or having a day off of work. This isn’t even just about the facts. A study recently came out that said reading literary fiction improves compassion. We need to publish and promote more voices, and we need to read those voices.
Here’s a look at St. John’s Church, which is where more than 700 people met the day of his “I Have a Dream Speech”: