“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
January 15, 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr would have been 91 today had an assassin’s bullet not ended his life back in 1968. I wonder sometimes about what would have, or could have been over these last 53 years if April 4 of that year went differently.
By now, would Father Time have moved Dr King from the streets where he marched to a home for the elderly? Maybe King would be attended to by caregivers a third his age. Maybe Martin’s wrinkled hands would tremble. Would his hair be gray and scattered? Or would there be worn vigor left in his bones and in those sterling vocal chords that lifted a people and a nation so long ago?
We cannot know, we can only wonder. He’s permanently carved in granite and memory as a younger man.
In a normal year, we’d pause today at practice and have some cupcakes to celebrate the birthday of the man for whom our school is named. I’m bummed, like many things in this past year, chalk that tradition up to another COVID casualty. Hopefully we can pick up the tradition again in 2022.
Birthdays mark the passage of time. The first, the 16th, 18th, 21st, 30th; each is a milestone, a time of reflection and celebration. Family and friends gather, candles adorn the top of a cake, we sing the birthday song (usually off key) and mark the light another year of a loved one’s life beholds. The more candles there are, the brighter the cake and that life seems to shine.
91 candles are not lit for Dr. King; his were snuffed out at 39.
But in a way they burn on in memory and legacy. Like a flame, his life and message still shines in the darkness. Though he is no longer with us, we should continue to mark the day he arrived, remembering what he gave to the nation in those abbreviated years. Among many themes, one played on repeat through his speeches and sermons. It was the challenge to pursue a Beloved Community even as he and the African American community faced terrible hatred and violence.
After his home was bombed one night by the KKK, he stepped out onto the fractured porch, the crunch of broken glass beneath his feet, shards of shattered wood lay lifeless, their purpose gone. A pulsing crowd gathered on his lawn, angry and quickened for revenge. There King stood illuminated by distant street lights and said:
“If you have weapons, take them home; if you do not have them, please do not seek to get them. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence. We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the words of Jesus: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us. We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.’ This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.”
The fortitude and strength he showed as he marched straight into the battle lines preaching a revolutionary message of love is inspiring, it’s worth remembering and celebrating, and birthdays call for such things.
Though he is not here today to blow out his candles and hear the familiar tune, and though we can’t have cupcakes in his honor like we normally do, nonetheless, we can try and practice what he preached. Gratitude for the message and his example, fortitude to carry it on.
Happy Birthday Dr. King!
Our media department at school produced a wonderful, short video and I encourage you to watch it today; you’ll need to use your Riverside Unified email account to access it: https://youtu.be/radsiec5wt8