I remember, in the sixth grade, and it was a tradition of many teachers at the time, being shown the film “Our Friend, Martin,” a cartoonized telling of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. I preferred books actually. The first time I saw it, I — barely — managed to stay awake throughout the whole film, but even now, I ask myself: was this the education of Dr. King that he deserved, or just another kick-in for those interested in cartoons?
You decide for yourself how you feel about it.
By now, even if you’re not an American, you must’ve heard Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” at least once. If you haven’t heard the historic speech, it’s always on YouTube, courtesy of History channel:
In college, Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail was one of the first reads in my Intro to Philosophy class. It was selected for the power of his message and the form of his argument. The questions he raised in his lifetime, are — sadly — still contested today.
He died too soon, at the age of 39, when he was murdered for his beliefs.
While reparations is still something to be discussed, as Ta-Nehisi Coates does here,
Dr. King, is recorded as only touching upon the subject of reparations,
but more deeply advocating for justice, in total, for economic inequality.
An article like this, I would rarely do, unless more directly important to me, for anyone else. Growing up and hearing his words, reading his words, and reflecting on life as it was, even for a white-passing trans girl, meant more to me than almost anyone else. Dr. King deserves this article from me and this piece of my heart like no one else, because he gave me hope and gave me guidance, and inspiration too, he gave me inspiration.
When I won that award, I had wanted so badly to speak with the power that he had. To be able to speak for others, in place of others, in defense of others, and be on the frontlines of necessary change, with words as my only weapon. With ideas as my only shield. With nonviolence as the goal.
Dr. King really changed my life with his words. Yet, without a figure like him in my life to guide me, with only words to follow, without a hand to hold, not even a God to hold faith in, I was lost. Finding myself through this writing, not poetry as much, but in the longer form of an essay, I began searching where I wanted to go and what I wanted to make, and what the world needed of me, and humorously, I was just a young girl.
When he was running against Clinton in 2012, I had voted for Barack Obama, my first Presidential vote ever. Not for the shallow reason of a black President, but because when he spoke, his form of speech was beautiful. Spoken word poetry would make me feel the same. Dr. King had first made me feel that way.
Conclusion: my favorite little-known King facts, courtesy of History
- Martin’s birth-name was Michael. So, like me, he also preferred a chosen name.
- “King entered college at the age of 15.” Wow!
- There was another speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Before “I Have a Dream,” King had given the speech: “Give Us the Ballot!”
- According to the King Center, he went to jail 29 times. Nearly 30 times!
- In 1958, Dr. King survived an assassination attempt. The weapon just barely missed his aorta, and he narrowly survived.
- “King’s mother was also slain by a bullet.” It was 1974 and feet from where her son had previously preached nonviolence in Ebenezer Baptist Church.
“George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that created a federal holiday to honor King. The holiday, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to the civil rights leader’s January 15 birthday.”