MLK was a Radical

MLK
PC: Underwood Archives/UIG/REX/Shutterstock

By Dr. Cornel West, for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., originally posted in The Guardian

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day. Continue reading “MLK was a Radical”

The War Machine Rages On

As the arrogant, stupidity of the war machine speeds up, as the cries of those killed echo in our hearts, as our fear lives in our throats, we ready ourselves to put our bodies in the street once again to say No Way! Never Again! No War with Iran!

It is on days like today, when “spiritual death” seems so close, that I am reminded and re-reading A Time to Break Silence by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:

I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers. I also want to say that I consider it a great honor to share this program with Dr. Bennett, Dr. Commager, and Rabbi Heschel, and some of the distinguished leaders and personalities of our nation. And of course it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. Continue reading “The War Machine Rages On”

The Sources We Choose

MurchThis is the conclusion of an essay in The Guardian written by Donna Murch, professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the prize-winning book Living for the City: Migration, Education and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. Murch reflects on a controversial essay recently published by the American historian David Garrow in a conservative British magazine about alleged sexual misconduct of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Garrow utilizes FBI records that will not be released to the public until 2027.

…it is worth thinking about what lessons can be drawn from the larger historical debate. The most obvious is the importance of responsibly using state sources, particularly those from law enforcement and intelligence agencies that may be actively involved in shaping the events they purport to represent. Given the vast expansion of policing, incarceration and surveillance in the US over the past half century, this concern extends well beyond the particulars of Garrow’s claims. Continue reading “The Sources We Choose”

Sermon 2- Poets and Prophets of Silence and Speech

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Snow is another thing that slows me down and helps me be still. And it is another thing I am watching with fear as we get less and less each year. I savor these days.

Sermon 1/20/2019 at Day House Catholic Worker
Isaiah 62:1-5
By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

Isaiah begins “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.”

I believe in refusing to be silent. But I also believe in silence and quiet. I believe that we need to still ourselves long enough to hear those words when we are each called “my delight” and listen for “our new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord.” God calls us by name, but it is so easy to miss when we aren’t paying attention.

It is not easy in our culture to find total silence or to stay in one place long enough to see what is right in front of us.

This week I am thinking a lot about Mary Oliver who died on Thursday. She is a poet who always had the gift of helping me to be quiet and altered my way of seeing the simplicity of life around me.

I have found myself struck with gratitude and grief realizing that there was something steadying to know that Mary Oliver was out in the woods somewhere paying attention to the beetles and the dew drops. So, my reflections tonight are filled with words from Mary Oliver tonight. Continue reading “Sermon 2- Poets and Prophets of Silence and Speech”

An Indivisible Pedagogy and Theology of Somebodiness

rubyAnother brilliant epistle from the front porch of Ruby Sales

On this day as we remember King please accept this gift of recapitulation, restoration and remembrance of a southern African American story.

Every year I listen in absolute horror as White liberals rob King of his connection and roots to the Black South. His are deep roots as are mine that extend all the way back to the first organized non-violent southern freedom grassroots movement when members of the community of enslaved Africans ran away. He and I descend from enslaved ancestors who fashioned a radical and liberating Black folk theology in southern fields where they were forced under state sanctioned violence to labor like beasts of burden to enrich the economic lifestyles of southern Whites. In the heat of those fields they carved out a theology of pragmatic optimism that blended their transcendental impulse –ancestors’ aspirations — with transactional acts of resistance and accommodation towards citizenship. The folk impulse of our enslaved ancestors radically departed from the White transactional view of us as property to our transcendental view of our being children of God and therefore legitimate heirs of the promise of democracy.
Continue reading “An Indivisible Pedagogy and Theology of Somebodiness”

Learning from Laughter and the Trees: He Comes with the Mountains

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Cedar at the Poor People’s Campaign action on June 18 in Detroit.

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

“You have rocks in your bag.”

Stunned, I said, “it’s possible. I have kids.” I searched frantically through my bag that I had carefully packed that morning in hopes of getting quickly through security at the 36th District Court before court. I tried to gloss over the contraband tics tacs and pencil I had hidden at the bottom- necessities for keeping a 2-year-old silent in the court room that day. I can’t find anything. They wait, “Check another pocket.” Sure enough, there in the front, I find them. I pull out hands filled with mountain stones, Detroit River rocks, and pine cones all covered in sand that pours through my fingers. I hand them over to the security guard who doesn’t flinch as I apologize and she heads for the trash can. Continue reading “Learning from Laughter and the Trees: He Comes with the Mountains”

How Do You Tell the Kids that Grandma Is in Jail for Resisting Nuclear Weapons?

H14_Ploughshare-activist-arrest-on-US-submarine-base3By Frida Berrigan. Re-posted from truth-out.org.

“Our grandma is in jail,” Madeline tells a woman wrestling a shopping cart at Target.

“She went over a war fence and tried to make peace,” Seamus adds helpfully. “They arrested her, and she is in jail now.”

“Where?” the woman asks, looking from them to me in disbelief and maybe pity.

“We don’t remember,” the kids say, suddenly done with their story and ready to make passionate pleas for the colorful items in the dollar section over the woman’s shoulder. Continue reading “How Do You Tell the Kids that Grandma Is in Jail for Resisting Nuclear Weapons?”

A Pilgrimage of Belovedness

Ebenezer copy (1)By Tommy Airey

Way back in the wide-open fields of the Clinton years, the seed of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was planted in me during a semester with Professor Bill Tuttle at the University of Kansas. Way back then, I was attending Campus Crusade bible study on Wednesdays, drinking a 12-pack of beer on Fridays and going to an all-white Evangelical church on Sundays. My spiritual life was a complete circus. Way back then, I struggled to make the simple connection that Dr. King was a Christian and that his perspective on Jesus was completely different than what my white Evangelical mentors and heroes were pitching. Continue reading “A Pilgrimage of Belovedness”

His Faith Demanded It

ConeFrom James Cone’s The Cross and The Lynching Tree (2013):

Just as Jesus knew he could be executed when he went to Jerusalem, Martin Luther King, Jr., knew that threats against his life could be realized in Memphis.  Like Jesus’ disciples who rejected the idea that his mission entailed his suffering and death (Mk 8:31-32), nearly everyone in King’s organization vigorously opposed his journey to Memphis, not only because of the dangers but because of the need to focus on the coming Poor People’s Campaign in Washington.  But King, like Jesus, felt he had no choice: he had to go to Memphis and aid the garbage workers in their struggle for dignity, better wages, and a safer work place.  He had to go because his faith demanded it.

Remembering King’s Assassination 50 Years Ago

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Photo credit: The Guardian

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann

I remember precisely where I was when I got the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination. It was my freshman year in college, a midwestern liberal arts school, and I’d just walked into the lounge of my dormitory when a bulletin broke into regular TV programing. The lone other student, whose face and name I mercifully do not recall, was seated high on the back of an overstuffed black leather chair. He muttered, “Somebody finally got that n****r.” I remember running the length of hall to the pay phone booth and calling my folks in Detroit, weeping into the receiver. In those tears, something shifted in me vocationally that day which bears on who I am. Continue reading “Remembering King’s Assassination 50 Years Ago”