Show caller: Don’t honor King by celebrating with ‘gangsters’

September 17, 2011 § Leave a comment


A SNIPPET OF yet another exchange caught on Saturday’s Salim Muwwakil show on WVON. The caller, James, is urging listeners to boycott the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. statue dedication in Washington, D.C.

JAMES: You ain’t honorin’ Dr. King going and celebratin’ with them gangsters. I would request that people not go. You’re not honoring Dr. King. Spread the word. Let Obama know: You’re not gonna go and bomb Africa, put a man on the run for his life, bombing his family, and then gonna sit up there and talk about Dr. King.

MUWWAKIL: And not only bomb his family, James, but exterminate the black Africans who are in that country, overtly.

JAMES: Well that’s what I mean. And I believe it because they been doing this their whole life. So how do we look going up there? You ain’t honoring no Dr. King. Think about it. I don’t care if you done bought a ticket. Let that little money go. If Dr. King was living, he knew Obama did that, you think he’d want you up there honoring him? Think about it. It’s time to tell these people, “Man, I’m tired. I done had enough.” Don’t go up there for that crap. … I’ve said it before and it bears me out: Obama is a cruel joke. … Black people keep falling for this bull. I just don’t understand why they keep falling for it.

Now, if you’ll recall, the whole King wingding had been set for August 28, but was postponed by an unexpected occurrence by the name of Irene.

My own mother grew up during the 50s and 60s in Selma, which was the beginning site of three of King’s famous marches. (By that time, she was in college in New Orleans, so she didn’t participate in them; however, her younger sister and parents did.)

Her background and her reverence for King led her to undertake a long train journey from Chicago to D.C. for this ill-fated celebration. For weeks, she talked about the memorial excitedly to any one who’d listen. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing, but I never bothered to tell her, knowing she wouldn’t listen anyway.

She was to depart from Chicago on Thursday, the 25th. The first thing that happened that day was her sister down in Selma, who had planned to catch a flight from Montgomery to D.C. to rendezvous with Mom, was delayed by a flat tire and missed her flight. She called Mom and said she’d try to catch another flight, but maybe it “just wasn’t meant to be.”

With only hours to go before her own departure on an Amtrak fro Chicago, Mom thought about everything: her sister’s flat, the approach of hurricane Irene, and the 5.9 earthquake that had struck the D.C. area just a few days earlier. When we talked, she said to me, “I’m trying to figure out if maybe if all these things are signs not to go.”

In the end, she decided God wanted her to soldier on regardless. I drove her to Union Station in Chicago to put her on the train.

No sooner had I fought my way home through the rush-hour traffic, than she was calling me from somewhere around South Bend, Indiana. She’d just heard from my aunt that Irene had scuttled the party. 

The train made a stop in South Bend, but Mom wasn’t ready to disembark. (Had she been able to get off, I could’ve made the hour-and-a-half drive from Chicago to pick her up.)She had to continue the 18-hour ride to Washington. She arrived there at 2 p.m. Friday. A couple of hours later, she was on a train back to Chicago.

Now, I have had my share of premonitions. But in this case I also had perfectly prosaic, rational reasons for feeling bad about her going to this thing. First of all:

1) King himself probably would have wanted nothing to do with the fawning adulation of thousands, and a huge statue of himself. The man was about self-sacrifice in the interest of creating a better world, not self-aggrandizement.

2) Some large religious organizations venerate statues of saints, seemingly contra the Second Commandment. However, King was a Baptist, and Baptists are about as Protestant as Protestants get. Simple, unadorned worship “in spirit and in truth” is the idea. A Baptist minister, one would think, would be the last person to have a statute of himself erected and commemorated, on even the outside chance that the whole proceeding might invoke an idolatrous spirit.

Indeed, depending on how one interprets the word, there is little in American popular or political culture that does not contain some measure of idolatry. We idolize money, idolize the rich and famous, idolize the powerful. If King was as true to his creed as I believe he mostly was, he would have had nothing to do with this celebration — entirely apart from the fact that he’s being feted by a bunch of warmongers.

Muwwakil airs on WVON-1690 AM every Saturday from 6-10 p.m. Central, and Wednesday and Thursday nights starting at either 6 or 7 p.m. (I can’t recall right now, and the Web site is not up to date). Currently, no Web archive is available, so if you want to catch him, you gotta catch him live.

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