Two weeks ago, I stood under room #306 at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King breathed his last. I heard the sound of his booming, prophetic voice, that poetic cadence that won’t let you loose. His voice holds me still. This past summer, as our city was engulfed in evil, it was Dr. King’s words, from his next to last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? that challenged me, sustained me, emboldened me. He spoke into our time, into my uncertainties.
Such conviction – the man knew his core, and he would not move. Not when the economic and political arsenal of white America turned against him. Not when some of his own friends and supporters turned against him.
Of course, Dr. King stands in a long line of women and men, courageous souls, who serve as our conscience, who love boldly, who refuse the ways we degrade ourselves and one another with our greed and selfishness and violence. These prophets of creative love do not leave destruction in their path. They dismantle evil, but their hands recreate rather than destroy. They envision what we will be, even as they call out what must be undone. They believe that goodness is not for the few but the many. They believe that wherever we must go, we must all arrive there together. They know that all will one day rise and enter free.
Rise up, my soul and let us go
Up to the gospel feast;
Gird on the garment white as snow
To join and be a guest.
Dost thou not hear the trumpet call
For thee, my soul, for thee?
Not only thee, my soul, but all,
May rise and enter free.
This poem was penned by George Mason Horton, enslaved poet and author of the first published book by a black man in the South, The Hope of Liberty, in 1829.
+photography is by the iconic Gordon Parks