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April 10th, 2013

It’s been 45 years since Dr. King’s voice was silenced

Lillie Howard

I woke up recently with a heavy burden on my heart for it was the day that our great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I found myself deeply overwhelmed at how his life was snatched away simply because he wouldn’t be silent about the mass injustices that were being waged against people of color. Unfortunately, not much has changed for the masses since that day. In fact, things have become much worse - back then most of our young people were marching and protesting. 45 years later drugs have wielded a mass destruction against a large proportion of our youth and most are living in prison cells.

Did our great leader die in vain? Has his life and what he stood for been so quickly erased from our minds and only thought about on his birthday and the day that his life was snatched away? Last week I purchased "Why We Can’t Wait" by Dr. King and I would like to share some of his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" with you:

"My Dear Fellow Clergymen: while confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities ‘unwise and untimely’. Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against ‘outsiders coming in’. Basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. My citing the creating of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension’. I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation."

To that I say that the city of Newburgh needs to hold some serious negotiations regarding jobs, police brutality, slum landlords, decent recreation for the youth in the east end and so much more. Organize!

Those who are dissatisfied with what is or is not going on in Newburgh should read this book. Hopefully it will stir up those who are disenchanted with the way things are for the disadvantaged and poor in this community. Get organized and don’t be afraid to invite "outsiders" in to help with your cause!

As Dr. King once said: "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

To our slain leader, Dr. King: we will never forget you and we thank God for creating such a man as you! This is Lillie’s Point of View!

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