Drum majors for justice converge to hail Dr. King

With an image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a backdrop, performers join hands as they sing “We Shall Overcome” during the 26th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monday Jan. 16, 2012 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Associated Press / Tina Fineberg

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards — that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.

Say that I was a drum major for peace.

I was a drum major for righteousness.

And all of the other shallow things will not matter.

I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Feb. 4, 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was 39 years old when he willed instruction for his funeral. At that age, he had already won a Nobel Peace Prize, led a national peace movement that promoted non-violence, challenged a corrupt, racist, unfair and warmongering government and influenced thousands to protest those practices. He had campaigned against segregation, and traveled the world clarifying his non-violent position at each port despite rebuke from detractors. He was stabbed in Harlem, arrested 30 times, survived the bombing of his house and suffered the most denigrating heinous injustices.

Almost half a century since his funeral, millions are using his January birth-month as a guide to echo his lifelong values and legacy.

Two years short to the historic half century milestone anniversary, 21st century drum majors hailed his ambition by amplifying his message in word and deeds.

Throughout the nation, communities bonded with volunteer activities organized in the name of Dr. King.

In the nation’s capital, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle followed the King Day theme of community service by planting vegetable seeds at a District of Columbia elementary school to honor the civil rights leader.

America’s first couple also stuffed bags with books for needy children along with young people who participate in a White House mentoring program and volunteers from the AmeriCorps national service program.

Reportedly, approximately 1,000 people gathered at the South Carolina statehouse where the confederate flag was absent since the shooting of Dr. King.

Three main Democratic presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley joined with civil rights leaders to pay homage to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout Monday, Jan. 18 media repeated his “I Have A Dream” speech and the prophetic “Mountaintop” message he delivered in Memphis, Tennessee on the eve of his assassination.

Pacifica Radio and its affiliate here — WBAI-FM, a listener-supported radio station — went the distance during a 24-hour, non-stop broadcast day that programmed speeches Dr. King made at the University of the West Indies June 1965, introduced a relatively unknown message Dr. King delivered in London, England, Dec. 7, 1968 while en-route to accepting a Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway and also recalled the passion and sentiment penned in long hand on April 16, 1963 in response to a statement from Alabama clergymen that is now indelibly inscribed as “A Letter from A Birmingham Jail.”

The Decades Channel (channel 2-2) programmed “A Day of Service” in tribute to the Civil Rights leader.

“Relive, Relate, Remember” the station’s theme for detailing history through the decades, focused on Dr. King’s service to America. The day’s programming provided rare film footage, documentaries and commentary to amplify the teachings, speeches and example the southern Baptist preacher exemplified during three decades plus nine years of social dedication to ensuring racial equality in America.

Newspapers and magazines also acknowledged the day by displaying Dr. King’s image on front pages in order to spotlight features that herald his contribution to improving the American profile.

And while drum majors to Dr. King’s call for service and volunteerism dominated the national day of service, politicians and celebrities provided unrivalled dedication lauding his cause by voicing concerns Dr. King might have engaged had he survived the assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968.

On the only holiday in America named for a single individual, NYC City Council woman Laurie A. Cumbo introduced Senator Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Bill de Blasio and wife Chirlayne McCray, Brooklyn’s first Black District Attorney, Ken Thompson, City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and keynote speaker Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.

The Brooklyn city councilwoman exceeded all expectations ushering each and every contributor to the 30th annual Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

As if presenting a laundry list of political campaign aspirations, she seemed most exuberant calling proponents of improved legislations related to gun violence, mass incarceration, NYPDs Stop & Frisk policy, paid sick leave, affordable housing, full day pre- kindergarten, the Black Lives Matter movement, affordable housing and a $15 minimum wage for New Yorkers.

The Brooklyn councilwoman appeared most enthusiastic introducing Sen. Schumer who she said entered the political arena in 1975, the year she was born. Throughout three decades BAM has hosted the largest tribute to Dr. MLK and Sen. Schumer has only missed one.

According to his own admission, it was 2013 when he officiated the second inaugural proceedings for President Barack Obama in Washington D.C. that he missed out on attending each and every tribute to the King of the Civil Rights movement.

As a personification of a drum major for peace and justice the slain preacher aspired, the New York senator standing in the shadows of an imposing portrait used his time to read Dr. King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” a speech he said remains elusive to many Americans.

The standing room only audience — many who had queued up two hours and more despite frigid temperatures — responded with unanimous applause and adulation.

Although each and every speaker received a full due of appreciation and respect in Brooklyn on the 87th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Dyson can claim the accolades for providing perhaps the most entertaining – rap and rhyme, poetry, pop culture, current events, news, information and comedy during his keynote address.

He referenced everyone from rappers Jay-Z, Tupac Shakur, the Notorious BIG, the Temptations to scandal-plagued comedian Bill Cosby to excite the discriminating audience.

Undeniably, along with Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Kimberly Nichole, Dr. Dyson delivered the most spirited presentation.

President Katy Clark made her Dr. MLK debut promising to host the BAM event for many years in the future.

In addition to a screening of the documentary “Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution” and an art exhibition titled “Picture The Dream” BAM proved the rallying point for drum majors Dr. King might have approved.

Here are the last admonitions to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia during a sermon on Feb. 4, 1968 — “The Drum Major Instinct”:

“If I can help somebody as I pass along,

If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,

If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,

Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,

If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,

If I can spread the message as the master taught,

Then my living will not be in vain.”

Catch You On The Inside!

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