My loyal audience will testify that from time to time, I have sit-downs and one-on-ones with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is from this sacred desk that I transcribe our sessions and convey them to you. This editorial is another episode of our chats.
As Doc and I sit down and chat from time to time, I usually get ready for the conversation by plowing through the luminous and lofty oratories that he left us.
For my part, I bring him the latest statistics on Black progress or the lack thereof in these “yet-to-be United States.”
Generally, I just dust off the previous year’s report. Unfortunately, there ain’t enough change to make a difference.
Before rendering the final transcripts to you, I generally scrub them to omit curse words that Dr. King blurts out.
Don’t get holy on me. Jesus wept as he succumbed to the sympathy that overtook him at Lazarus’ graveside. Witnessing the continued mistreatment and inhumane treatment among mortals is more than a real saint can endure.
Parenthetically, Dr. King confided that in retrospect, the “I Have a Dream” speech was merely a hallucination. Looking back on it now, he knows full well that America would never relegate respect nor secure rights to a people that it so cruelly and callously despises.
The former Michael King Jr. went on to say that he had “been to the mountaintop,” but if he had told the whole truth about what he saw, it would’ve scared most of you to death. Instead, King left us hope and a reason to believe.
However, for our session in 2022, he pointed me to a speech he delivered just a few weeks before the American intelligence community had him killed.
It was a personalized position paper intended for Memphis’ sanitation workers and all workers in general.
On March 18, 1968, King “dumped the house” with a manifesto titled “All Labor Has Dignity.”
The Bishop Charles Mason Temple of the Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tennessee, hosted a crowd of sanitation workers on strike and their supporters.
Dr. King admitted that he thought about that speech after hearing a Dallas County Commissioner who was defiant in positing that Black Lives won’t matter until Black Commerce Matters. Doc had said as much before he got mid-speech in Memphis.
“We know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”
Martin Luther King very well understood that in this America, in the cradle of capitalism; in the nation, with a history of the vilest slavery system in the world, Black Lives will never truly matter until Black Commerce matters. Therefore, we must support our own and demand our share.
Hell, he said (hell is in the Bible, stay with me), America doesn’t give a damn about poor whites or any people on the planet that lack the power and control that money and wealth allows.
And to that end, we got some Black folks who are just as guilty.
“The Negro “haves” must join hands with the Negro “have-nots.” And armed with compassionate traveler checks, they must journey into that other country of their brother’s denial and hurt and exploitation.
This is what you have done. You’ve revealed here that you recognize that the no D is as significant as the Ph.D., and the man who has been to no-house is as significant as the man who has been to Morehouse. And I just want to commend you.”
Dr. King was in rare form. He said he was proud of that Dallas preacher with the ankh in his church, in a building shaped like a pyramid. King was proud of him for calling for “100 Days of Buying Black.”
However, he cautioned that Black businesses, like Black history, cannot be “featured” for a day, week, or month. Being proud and supportive of who God made us have to be a daily mantra.
Dr. King ended his missive with a message that we still need to hear today.
“Never forget that freedom is not something that is voluntarily given by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. Freedom is not some lavish dish that the power structure and the white forces in policy-making positions will voluntarily hand out on a silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite. If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.”
We must stop hallucinating about a mountaintop dream and get down to (Black) business. Quit Playin’: the Promised Land awaits!
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.