“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”Martin
To be black in the United States during the holidays is already a trial. Traditional expressions of these holidays seldom involve black families, as most American media and imagery are already graded low when it comes to diversity. The holidays celebrated in the United States are all of them tied to a colonial history of rapacious exploitation, and just over a hundred years ago our family members served the holiday banquet to wealthy families at the same time as their flesh was seen as a mere tool and their human dignity was sysematically besieged.
You think that in 2023–we have witnessed man and woman after man and woman, boy and girl after boy and girl, killed, shot dead, the whole world witnessed these black-holy lives taken with video footage–you would think that today when a holiday comes around that celebrates Blackness, or the life and treacherous death and legacy of a black man or a black woman, there would be some sort of tear in the fabric of the nation, or some sort of ripple or wave in the waters of its body. But no. No. Three times–no. Not. At. All. When it comes to celebrating a holiday about the history or future (but never the future, always the history) of being black in America, the situation gets worse than the one described at the opening. Things become quite nasty. Ignorant, brutish, intentionally misleading. The legacy of these black characters is meant to die in the hearts of white and black and other human beings, living out the stress and pressure of their lives, all at war with all. They are curated and memorialized precisely to die, their speeches made to ring hollower and hollower by the year. Sometimes we are given a month to celebrate our history, given a month to watch it die. The future stolen from us. By a holiday. By memorializing and feigned acknowledgment.
Towns and cities and counties and states across the nation argue about days and months like these, days and months dedicated to Blackness. Some banks are closed these days–most banks are not. Some schools have days off and hold programs–until very recently, most did not, and this is still a constant struggle. Some restaurants and bars and shops are closed–most carry on with business as usual. A recent quip I heard from one employee was that if she wanted to take a day off from work for a holiday celebrating Blackness, she could only choose one a year out of the one or two there are. The days are spoken of with shame and with a malicious solemnity, with any creative possibilities of overcoming the divides between us drowned out by peaceful, warm-feeling and digestible story-telling and re-telling. On the day dedicated to the messiah in the United States, and that other strange holiday at the end of November, there are usually large feasts. This has an age-old tie to the harvest, and the celebration of bounty in preparation for and faith in the future. There are no feasts for our Black holidays because there is supposed to be no future for Blackness. The month of February can be seen as the last month of the lordship of cold and barrenness before springtime, a long and strenuous hope as to whether the hard ice will ever be melted and shattered. And then there is, right in the middle of that sham of a holy month, another nonsense holiday added into the mix, whose pink and red hearts and whose alabaster cupids easily outshadow all the black.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is my brother, and I love him, and I think with all the love he would have in his heart for me and for this nation today he would be disappointed along with me. Disappointed–and disgusted. He would want you to listen to more of his speeches than one. Or he would want you to read or listen to none of them at all, but to have fire in your hearts and souls. He would want you to follow him in his relationship to Malcom. He would want you to sit in prison with him in Birmingham, and travel with him through the pits and bruises and scars and trauma that his forgiving and forgiveness involved. He would want you to speak with him about the hellish outrage of Vietnam, and join him for a friendly conversation with Thich Nhat Hanh. He would want us to fight with love in our hearts and souls, but he would still want us to fight. Not only is non-resistance sometimes one of the most intense forms of engaging in a fight, but Martin himself struggled precisely with–non-resistance. As love is diverse because love is in all things, so the fight is diverse because the struggle is everywhere.
I do not think Martin would want me to say Happy Martin Luther King Day to anyone. No, not today. He would most likely say Remember me. Remember a human life, a black life. But remember it honestly. Remember it so as to also give the life a future when you remember it. Love and forgiveness and overcoming need and desire faithful renderings, not botched platitudes.
Someday, Martin. Some day. We love you.
I love the idea of a “Black Future Month.” The past is full of sorrow, but as Dr. King knew, the future is full of hope. It was full of hope because God filled people like Dr. King with hope. May he do the same for you (and all of us)..
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Thank you in abundance. Your response is a treasure for me. Some can only see further devastation through devastation. I adore and am inspired by those who can see love triumphing through devastation.
May your days bring beauty your way, and may your hope thrive.
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