Monday, January 19, 2015

My locked up tears flowed again April 4, 1968

My locked up tears flowed again

I was standing in my kitchen ironing
When the news flash interrupted the
Regular programming on TV

The date was April 4, 1968

When I heard
Martin Luther King's name
I stopped ironing
Nervously whispering under my breath
Putting it and my brain on hold

Oh, God. No! Not again!

But it was again!
And another assassination!

My locked up tears started flowing
I cried and cried and cried
Only God and me know how I cried

I cried easier during those youthful days
My heart was not hard and cold
Those days were full of patriotic
Protests and honest marching
In the streets of America
I understood the politics of freedom
But the politics of death was what
I wanted to run from

That's not to say I don't understand
Death or painful crying
I am not personally acquainted with death
However, I did have a close experience
But I don't count that incident because 
I survived the foolish dare

I don't cry so easily these days
My tears have gotten selfish
They have gotten harder and
Tougher to arouse out of their sleep
Violence has a way of
Draining the body and soul when it
Occurs too soon, too often

Nonetheless, I still get misty eyed
And sentimental when
I hear one of Martin's speeches 
Especially the one in which he talks about
Little black girls and boys walking
Hand-in-hand with little
White girls and boys
Little black children who should be
Judged for the content of their character
Not the color of their skin

Martin had a dream
Mahalia Jackson reminded him of it
One August day in Washington:
"Tell them about your dream, Martin!"
Mahalia encouraged him
And Martin revealed his dream
Making America dream with him

Making a different speech in Memphis, Tennessee
Martin told us about sick
Whitemen wanting to
Kill him for no logical reason
Other than to shut down his dream 
For a fair and just America
They wanted to shut down
His ideology, his politics, his righteousness
Their dry white hate wanted still his voice
 I've Been To The Mountaintop
Is not repeated as often as
I Have A Dream
But the speech was just as memorable 
It had an important message  

Martin was in Memphis to march and protest
With striking sanitation workers
They wanted recognition for their worth
As working men
As human beings
Their posters screamed:

Martin requested one of
His favorite Mahalia Jackson songs
I think it might have been
Precious Lord, Take My Hand
No one could sing it like Mahalia

And then Martin told us that he
Just wanted to do God's will
He said he had
Gone to the Mountaintop
God allowed him to
Look to see the Promise Land

What did you see, Martin?

My heart swelling with the hallelujah of God
I felt empowered to
Understand what Martin was saying
Nevertheless, I wanted to know what the
Promise Land looked like 

Not everyone is permitted to
Climb to the mountaintop
To see what Martin saw

I vividly remember
The glow on his Martin's that night 
It was like a full face halo
Must be the glow of God 
I thought to myself

Near the end of the speech
Martin said:

And then I got to Memphis
And some began to say the threats
Or talk of threats were out.
What would happen  to me
From some of our sick white brothers.
Well, I don't know what will happen now.
Because I have been to the
Mountaintop. And I don't mind.
Like anybody I want
To live a long life. 
Longevity has its place.
 And I am happy tonight.
I'm not worried about anything.
I'm not fearing any man.

Martin said his eyes had seen the
Glory of the coming of the Lord 
I envied him because my eyes
Were not open enough to see God
And the coming of His glory

When Martin said: I may not get there with you
I wondered why would God
Show him the Promise Land
And not let him cross over 
Perhaps God explained the journey 
To him as he did with Moses  

The Book of Deuteronomy says:

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab
To Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah,
Which is across from Jericho.
And the Lord showed showed him all 
Land of Gilead as far as Dan,
All Naphtali and the land of
Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land
of Judah as far as the Western Sea,
The South, and the plain of the Valley
of Jericho, the city of palm trees
As far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him,
This is the land of which I swore
To give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
Saying, I will give it to your descendants.
I have caused you to see it with your own eyes,
But you shall not cross over there.

Martin was graced to see what we could not
 He didn't live in fear of dangerous whitemen
Hyper hound dogs, water
Spraying hoses held with hateful hands
Or the prospect of death

I learned from Martin that
A man or woman cannot achieve 
The complete art of living
While stuck in the concrete fear
Unlike Martin, I was straddling the fence
My false bravery was too fearful of dying

Drum majors are destined to stand
Out front for justice
 Refusing to be intimidated
 Strutting and marching toward
Gun fired bullets and
Fast thrown bricks

I wish I could have known Martin
I would have asked him to
Show me how to dream about
Real freedom and peace of mind
How to be nonviolent when
Starring violence in the face

I would have asked him to hold my hand so that his
Strength could surge through my body
 Like a bold of lightning
Energizing my weaknesses and fears
That were choking the free life
I should have been living
My spirit couldn't pull my feet out of the concrete

I would have asked Martin to show
Me how to look over the mountaintop
And not be scared if I was not
Destined to make it to the Promise Land
The day my heart stopped beating

Standing in my kitchen
Trembling and crying, the iron in my hand
I wondered if my eyes would
See the coming of the Lord

(C) by dorothy charles banks

Photo 1): Rev. King makes his "I've Been To The Mountain Top" speech in Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968. It was his last speech before his assassination April 4. Photo 2): The March on Washington took place August 28, 1963 on the Washington Mall. Photo 3): Sanitation workers in Tennessee were striking to join the union, and for wages equal to their white counterpart.  Photo 4): Rev. King and civil rights activist Rev. Ralph Abernathy participate in the sanitation protest for equality and fairness on the job.

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