Remembering MLK in the Age of Trump

first_imgBy Sean Yoes, Baltimore AFRO Editor syoes@afro.comAs we reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., almost 50 years after his murder on April 4, 1968, it is impossible to consider King without examining his two most famous speeches; “I Have a Dream,” delivered during the March on Washington in 1963 and, “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop,” the speech he gave the day before his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.But, these are not just King’s most famous speeches, they are two of the most important speeches in American history. The mythic climaxes of each speech envision the elusive promise of freedom, justice and equality for all Americans.“I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land!” King said at the end of the Mountaintop speech in 1968.Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)“And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ’Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last,’ proclaimed King at the end of the Dream speech.So many had such great expectations for America, Black Americans specifically following the civil rights victories of the 1950s and 1960s. And for those who came of age during those turbulent, transcendent decades and then lived to see the ascension of Barack Obama, the first Black President of the United States, many believed he was the partial manifestation, or at least evidence of the lucidity of King’s dream and his view from the mountaintop.The substance and significance of Obama’s presidency may be debated for centuries. However, there is little debate the 44th President altered the trajectory of America like no other president had before him.Yet, after eight years of Obama, almost 3,000 days of the beautiful, Black Obama family occupying the White House built by slaves, the remnant of King’s ethereal dream seems to be morphing into a Black American nightmare, right before our eyes in the form of Donald J. Trump.Because, 50 years after King’s death, the vast majority of Black America finds itself in a peculiar and precarious space; enduring the volatile reign of the most unqualified, lazy, larcenous, lying, willfully ignorant, and therefore dangerous, man ever to occupy the White House.From his descension of the escalator of Trump Tower June 16, 2016, where he branded Mexicans as “rapists and murderers,” to his ascension to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the former reality television star has pushed a White nationalist agenda, overtly and covertly. He is arguably the most openly anti-Black U.S. President since Woodrow Wilson, who proclaimed the Ku Klux Klan propaganda film, “Birth of a Nation,” was “like writing history with lightning.”Where millions may view the fictional kingdom of Wakanda as inspirational and aspirational, Trump only sees a sh*thole fantasy.What would King have thought if he had witnessed Barack Obama orchestrate the orderly transfer of the power of the presidency to Trump, the man who orchestrated the racist lie of “birtherism?” Would he still believe in the vibrancy of his dream, or would he adhere to Langston Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred?”King made famous a quote by the abolitionist and Unitarian minister Theodore Parker. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”For many Black Americans, the arc has become longer in the age of Trump and the bend toward justice less discernible.Sean Yoes is the Baltimore editor of the AFRO and host and executive producer of the AFRO First Edition video podcast, which airs Monday and Friday on the AFRO’s Facebook page.last_img

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