Despite staffing a U.S. Senator during the Obama years, I’m not overtly political. Not these days. Although, Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy haunts me now. Before I moved to New York City, I spent seven weeks selling photos of Dr. King taken by his last personal photographer, the late Dr. Ernest C. Withers.
It was electrifying.
Walking through Dr. Withers’ last working studio was like touching history every morning. Revisiting painstaking moments, forever etched into the book of courage. Imagine overlooking images of Dr. King standing in front of a 1960’s KFC in the backwoods of Mississippi, over your shoulder…
...next to photos of Aretha Franklin and Tent City.
As Dr. Withers’ favorite saying goes, “the pictures tell the story”. Hundreds of shanty towns in post-bellum southern counties-that was Tent City-for those bold enough to register to vote, disenfranchised, and exiled. Tent City’s story is telling and why I’m encouraging everyone to visit Mother AME Zion in Central Harlem and support Rev. Stephen Green (Phd pending) on MLK Day today at 11 a.m.
James Meredith was a black scholar who integrated Ole Miss.
For most law schools’ constitutional law courses, it’s regular case reading. James sought to prove (with Dr. King) that a black man could walk 225 miles from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi without being harassed, along the way.
Peace walking. That was the message. He made it barely 10 miles before landing on the other side of a blow to the head. America is 225+ years old, with its own growing pains.
1. That’s where Reverend Stephen A. Green comes in.
I’ve known Stephen since 11th grade (that’s 11 years). Green’s message has always inspired me, insisting that we’re closer to realizing Martin’s dream than we think. Tomorrow’s meditation will speak on what it means to get to the quintessential promised land in 2020.
2. Mother AME Zion Church is the oldest black institution in North America.
Fredrick Douglas, Hariett Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Madame CJ Walker are counted in its members. It’s nickname is the “Church of Black Liberation”.
So, where does Morehouse College come in? I’m a Howard man, but this post isn’t about college or scholarship.
3. Dr. King graduated from Morehouse College, which shaped his philosophical aesthetic and its halls continues to train global thought leaders like Reverend Stephen A. Green.
Rev. Green follows a long line of preachers, although his style is so authentically millennial his outspoken hot takes have landed him on CNN and marching next to presidential candidates and world class diplomats.
4. Our past has some cool stories, not just mourning.
For example, today we learned that Mother AME Zion members helped to found the African country of Liberia. The most gripping details of this naval journey actually came from the voyage itself, which almost didn’t happen. In fact, next month, an international audience will descend on Harlem to remember the first 80 passengers bound for Liberia from America (an unprecedented move), a choice made with a proverbial gun to the head, 200 years ago to the day. Daring at freedom and life in Africa, these 80 were ground to a halt when the Hudson and East Rivers froze over suddenly in January 1820. For these 19th century passengers, freezing to death would have been expected. A likely outcome, and a two-year old toddler didn’t make the voyage. Freezing to death, with an honorable Mother AME Zion burial service. However, the 3 Mother AME Zion members on board that starliner leaned on our church, Mother AME Zion, to house them until the ice broke in February, opening up the Atlantic for their one way trip to paradise.
You may not be expecting a lot out of your Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, and I understand that.
I didn’t for the longest time either. However, now I look forward to it.
5. It took years to codify King Day.
The story of how MLK Day became a federal holiday is a cherish one. If you don’t know it. Attend Rev. Green’s meditation 01.20.20 at 11 a.m. See you there!
Join Mother AME Zion as it launches a young Morehouse brother’s career in Harlem to a rapt audience.