This year, I reserve Mondays I reserve for highlighting kindness. This week, I’m taking a slight diversion to resurrect something I wrote about Martin Luther King Day a few years ago.
This is from 2016. Unfortuntely, much of what led me to this post has only gotten worse. Still, as we deal with the Pandemic, Wage inequality, and voter supression, I think it’s good to remember that there are good people doing good things.
Last week I actually cried because of the new lows the election tactics and hate rhetoric reached.
“It seems like there is so much hate,” I lamented to Loved-One.
He put his arms around me. “You probably need to disconnect from social media a bit,” he advised.
“It’s not social media, it’s the regular old media. It’s the television. It’s the newspapers. It’s radio. It’s even in the mailbox.” Never before have I experienced such sorrow about current events.
On Sunday I wiped my tears away again. This time, music filled me with hope.
Teenagers, mostly caucasian, from modest backgrounds, living in a rural, northeastern Illinois community reminded me of Martin Luther King, Junior‘s mission. They performed to a crowd of about 200, gathered on a Saturday afternoon to remember. Between songs like Peter Gabriel “Biko,” and Bono’s “Pride (In the Name of Love),” young people read excerpts from sermons and speeches by King.
Taras Ivasyuk, aka “Taras the Artist” with his band, Theories of Suburbia performed a song Taras created “You Won’t Bring Us Down.” Taras told me, “I wrote the song in response to the ISIL’s attack on Paris in 2015. I wanted to switch the feeling from despair to resilience and endurance.”
Ken West began organizing Music4Martin sixteen years ago; longer than some of the performers have been on this earth. He charges nothing for the performance, instead he relies on the generosity and kindred spirit of community members. He collects a free-will offering for a local charity.
Ken’s words so filled me with hope, that I asked him if I could recreate them here. He graciously agreed.
For as long as I can remember, the words of Dr. King have fallen down upon my life like cool rain on a hot summer’s day, lifting my spirits when current events weigh upon me, opening my eyes and heart to the abundance that is my life and reminding me to bring the power of love to all my endeavors.
The origin, duration and impact of the Civil Rights Movement has been greatly debated. Many scholars believe it began in 1955, when Dr. King took the helm of the Montgomery Improvement Association’s boycott of their city’s segregated bus system, and conclude it ended on that Thursday in April of ’68 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. And yet others contend that it started earlier or lasted longer or that it repeatedly starts and stops as world events call it into action.
Dr. King died less than one year into his Poor People’s Campaign. He brought together a wide array of Americans: Black, White, Hispanic, Native, and others in a multiracial effort to battle poverty and hunger. This was a campaign not born from shared skin color, but from shared circumstance.
The civil rights movement cannot be defined solely within issues of race, nor is it tied solely to American events. Civil rights is not an issue of right or left, red or blue, democrat or republican, liberal or conservative. Dr. King had no use for these continuums or the divisive labels born from them. The movement, is first and foremost, moral. And from that base of morality, empathic and loving. It asks us to look beyond our circumstances to the circumstances of all others and to stand up, in both words and actions, for the rights of every individual. This is what Martin died for and what the movement lives for today. You and I…we are the movement when we stand against so called leaders who offer violence as an antidote for violence, suggesting that it is acceptable to carpet bomb thousands of innocents in a “cross your fingers” effort to eliminate a few who perpetrate evil. We are the movement when we stand against immigration policy that picks and chooses who can and cannot seek a safer life…a policy driven by prejudice and xenophobia. We are the movement when we stand against law enforcement whose dedication to serving and protecting is clearly dependent upon a citizen’s race.
Thank you, Ken.
I first heard about Ken West six years ago when I worked as a photo-journalist for The McHenry Chronicle. Click here for that article.
I connected again today with Ken, to see what his efforts look like now. He planned to resurrect his Music4Martin concerts this year, and then Omicron. He’s confident that 2023 will bring more Music4Martin. Maybe it’s too early to mark my calendar in ink, but I’m penciling in the second Sunday in March as a day of positive vibes and good music.