Updated: Apr 17, 2021
We can see the good in bestowing power on an individual, if the individual is a powerful character, worth our support. We can believe in power to the people, but it stems from a belief in each person, having power in their own lives. Sometimes these concepts are more than that, they converge, they manifest themselves in the person of one individual. Martin Luther King was just such a person.
I am reflecting on the man, and what he meant in life, and means in our lives, as we think about the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Everywhere I go, whether in my home, or if I have had an office, on the wall, above my desk, is a poster of Martin Luther King, with the heading, I Have A Dream, and with the picture of him when he made that speech. I admire him, I think, more than most people in politics, or leaders in public life. I am dedicating a work I have created, to the memory of him, and Nelson Mandela, whose centenary of birth is this year.
I am developing a musical I have written, with book music and lyrics, an adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is called, Tom's Cabin-The Man of Humanity, I have referred to it before, here. It, among many things, redresses the balance with regard to that book, it reveals the remarkable bravery of the original author, in attacking slavery, and of the central character, Tom, the slave. It was racists who traduced the story, truncated it in adaptations of the nineteenth century, and turned the hero, Tom, into a weak figure. The resultant use of the word or expression, "uncle Tom,"became a byword for compliance. If anyone was not compliant, it was Martin Luther King, but, like the character in Stowe's book, there were those who sought to portray him as that. Compared to the stance of others, such as Malcolm X, the non violence of Dr. King was thought to be too soft hearted, for some. They could not have been more wrong. Tom, in the book, by Stowe, is a Christ like figure, King, of course, was a Gandhi like one. The path of non violence amidst the violence of an age and with a cause that goes beyond it, is a road less travelled, and better appreciated, when it is. It is why it is King, more than most, who we can look to, with a love for him that is as strong as he was. For the man, for the message and in memory of him. This is of great significance to those of us, as in this forum, dealing with issues of prejudice and how to eradicate it.
Powerful personalities come and go, few stand the test of time as well, as Dr. Martin Luther King jr. His dream was made a reality, by the life he led, tragically cut down, fifty years ago. He was a mover and a shaker, but more than anything he was a maker. Some destroy, at worst, or make a little something that lasts, at best. King was one of those greats who really did try to make a better world. He wanted his descendants to be "judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character." Martin Luther King was, like anyone, flawed, but more than so many, he was a man of character.
Characters, whether in fiction, or in fact, inspire. Few can inspire, as can the content of the character of this man and the very many words he spoke which expressed it and which we can cherish.
Author : LORENZO CHERIN