I got this from the King Center website. The King Center is based in Atlanta and I’ve been there in person. It’s inspiring but in some ways a bit disappointing. The Gandhi Room was amazing in its explanation of how Gandhi’s strategies and spirits guided King. I loved reading King’s original words  in his own handwriting and seeing what he and Coretta wore to important marches, etc. Yet, my own father’s library had more books by Dr. King than the Bookstore, which both offline and online, could stand a broader outlook and better management. King was a prolific writer. The website also shows a confused, outdated mentality — the website has a flash presentation of an MLK quote with King speaking. It’s well done, yet at the bottom of the screen, the King Center suggests that we click to purchase the speech on audio cassette.

Um, news flash — no one wants a damn audio cassette. I’m not even going to give them Condi Rice’s soft bigotry of low expectations and suggest an CD or DVD. For younger people (like, for pete’s sake, under 50) — why not allow people to download the speech? Why not have a podcast series on iTunes with MLK speeches or readings from his many books? Where are the YouTube videos? Both Kings — Martin & Coretta — were cutting-edge and forward-thinking. It is in their spirit that we, on JJP, bring our voices together to make a great noise and to march for justice. The King Center should be more than a neglected family attic. I’m glad that they have begun raising money for updates and I’d encourage them to think bigger — use MLK Day next year to run an online capital campaign. You can donate to the King Center , too. They could use the $$$, methinks.

One thing I did find on the MLK Website was a letter from Coretta about the King Holiday and what she believed it should mean to each of us. She worked hard to encourage Americans to take a day once a year and remember not only her husband, but what motivated him. She encouraged Americans to pause once yearly to find what drove MLK (and her) inside each of us. Coretta saw in her husband the potential to be so much greater than yourself alone and she also saw that same potential in you and me. She was not quite the writer nor the orator that MLK was. But her words below are filled with love, vision and great wisdom. Here’s a few excerpts and I’d recommend reading the whole thing:

We commemorate Dr. King’s inspiring words, because his voice and his vision filled a great void in our nation, and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles. Yet, Dr. King knew that it wasn’t enough just to talk the talk, that he had to walk the walk for his words to be credible. And so we commemorate on this holiday the man of action, who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day, the man who braved threats and jail and beatings and who ultimately paid the highest price to make democracy a reality for all Americans.

[...]

It is a day of interracial and intercultural cooperation and sharing. No other day of the year brings so many peoples from different cultural backgrounds together in such a vibrant spirit of brother and sisterhood. Whether you are African-American, Hispanic or Native American, whether you are Caucasian or Asian-American, you are part of the great dream Martin Luther King, Jr. had for America. This is not a black holiday; it is a peoples’ holiday. And it is the young people of all races and religions who hold the keys to the fulfillment of his dream.

We commemorate on this holiday the ecumenical leader and visionary who embraced the unity of all faiths in love and truth. And though we take patriotic pride that Dr. King was an American, on this holiday we must also commemorate the global leader who inspired nonviolent liberation movements around the world. Indeed, on this day, programs commemorating my husband’s birthday are being observed in more than 100 nations.

[...]

On the King Holiday, young people learn about the power of unconditional love even for one’s adversaries as a way to fight injustice and defuse violent disputes. It is a time to show them the power of forgiveness in the healing process at the interpersonal as well as international levels.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.

Dr. King once said that we all have to decide whether we “will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and nagging question, he said, is `what are you doing for others?’” he would quote Mark 9:35, the scripture in which Jesus of Nazareth tells James and John “…whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever among you will be the first shall be the servant of all.” And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life. “I’d like somebody to mention on that day Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others,” he said. “I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my life…to love and serve humanity.

You know that Martin Luther King, were he alive, would urge us to do all we can for the people of Haiti and all those in America and around the world in need. Celebrate in your own way today — if you need to sleep in or go shopping, that’s ok. Still I hope in your heart that you also dedicate this day to reflection on your own capacity for creative altruism.

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