Jan 18, 2012

Dr. King and a Legacy

Although I did not get permission to share this story from Dr. Mouzon Biggs, the outward contours of this story come from a memorable address he delivered in May 1994 in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Years ago Boris Yeltsin wrote a book about how he and other freedom loving Russians began the long process of bringing democracy to the Soviet people. Yeltsin said he was discouraged at times, and even thought of giving up the fight. But there was a Polish labor-organizer in the ship yards of Gdansk who gave him courage by the name of Lech Walesa. If Walesa could free the Poles, then surely Yeltsin could do the same for the Russian people.

If we were to research the story of Walesa, however, Walesa would say that he got his inspiration from an American named Martin Luther King, Jr. It was King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail which encouraged Walesa to fight the democratic fight on behalf of the Polish workers.

If one were able to have asked King where he got his inspiration for leading the call to civil rights for African-Americans in the South, he would quickly respond that it was never his idea or intention to be a civil rights leader. Certainly, he knew of the struggle in India led by Gandhi in the 1930s and 1940s against the British, but King was a well-educated man who had no intention of becoming a grass-roots leader in any democratic movement. No, he was a scholar, writer, and preacher.

However, one of his church members got King involved in the civil rights movement. Her name was Rosa Parks. In the 1950s blacks had to ride at the back of city buses in the South. There was a white line painted at the mid-point of buses in Montgomery to separate whites and blacks. The black folk sat at the back and the white folk sat in the front of the buses.  On one particular day the bus was crowded, but when a white man told Mrs. Parks to give him her seat, she said no.

Later she explained that she was tired and hot and could not even muster the energy to get up. So she refused his demand. She said, “Yesterday, maybe she said yes, or last year, but on that fateful day, all she could say was no!” She was subsequently arrested and put into jail.

Hence, King became involved as a civil rights leader because of a housekeeper who just happened to be a member of King’s church in Montgomery.

Could Mrs. Rosa Parks have brought down the entire Soviet system of communism all by herself by her decision to sit and not get up for a white man in Alabama? You make the call.


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