I am old enough to remember Martin Luther King, Jr, as an active agent in the evolution of our country. Today is the US national holiday to commemorate his birth.
I remember sitting in my father’s lap at the age of 6, during our regular evening event of watching Walter Cronkite together (Cronkite was the anchor for CBS evening news), and hearing that Selma, Alabama, would be the focus for winning voting rights for African Americans. This decision would instigate a direct confrontation with Governor George Wallace who opposed voting rights for America’s blacks, and vowed to stop the. protestors.
A march followed, which King was not a part of. It became a milestone in American history because Alabama state troopers and vigilantes met the march and physically beat the participants, and this was captured on national television – one of the first instances of tv crews capturing history in the making, documenting the horrific use of force on the unarmed advocates. The marchers were brutally beaten and many fled for their lives.
Then King travelled to Selma and attempted another march, but turned back when they were also met with Alabama troopers. On March 21 U.S. Army troops and federalized Alabama National Guardsmen escorted King and the marchers, making it possible for them to reach the Alabama state capitol where the civil rights leader addressed 25,000. Publicity ensued from both the horror of the one-sided attack and the subsequent speech days later. It was a major contributing factor to public sentiment which turned toward King and his movement, leading to the successful passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I have one friend, no longer alive, who participated in the march. She told me how people came from all over the country. She herself arrived in a bus from her home in Ohio. She recalled the children playing when the marchers would stop and rest. Imagine the uncertainty of the moment meeting the dedication of the marchers.
My wife, singer/songwriter, Laura Baron, wrote a song, that always comes to mind on this day: Kindness Don’t Rest Easy. You can hear it on this page, on the album, Scenes from the Avenue. In particular the words: When the wild winds moan and the sky grows dim, the roof starts shaking and hope grows slim, kindness starts a-moving like a wheel turning round, rolling through the country, down the backroads of town… Kindness is a teacher if we listen carefully. Sits down and talks things over, steps out and makes history.
Where do you go for strength when the odds are against you, but your aim is true?
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” – Benjamin Franklin