It was 45 years ago when our beloved freedom fighter, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in what we believe was a conspiracy by the government, particularly the FBI.
I remember exactly where I was when the news came over the radio that Dr. King had been shot.
I was in New Haven, Conn. driving my 8-year-old son and his friends from Rock Creek Road to a drive-in movie. I turned the car around and went straight back home. We learned on arrival the shot was fatal and the King of Love was dead. I was devastated.
Although at that time I didn’t have the self-control and discipline needed to join the non-violent actions that friends had, I greatly admired their courage, especially Dr. King’s bravery in being on the front lines of struggle facing imminent death so many times.
As the Chinese say, “To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai…”
In the wake of King’s death, cities across the country exploded once Blacks learned their “prince of peace” was assassinated.
According to The Chicago Tribune, “Mayor Richard J. Daley later told reporters that he had ordered police ‘to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand . . . and . . . to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.’
“In the first two days of rioting, police reported numerous civilian deaths….[but] No official death toll was given for the tragedy, although published accounts say nine to 11 people died during the rioting. Three hundred fifty people were arrested for looting, and 162 buildings were destroyed by arson. Bulldozers moved in to clean up after the rioters, leaving behind vacant lots that remained empty three decades later.”
Why was Dr. King assassinated?
We must recall that Dr. King and his organization, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), were in the process of organizing a poor peoples march on Washington – all people, not just Blacks -- and King was in Memphis, Tennessee, to support the striking sanitation workers when he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
In a piece titled, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), King talked about guaranteed income in a chapter titled "Where Are We Going?”
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income. The problem indicates that our emphasis must be two-fold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position, we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available…..
“The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking….
“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization…. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” (my emphasis)
Clearly, Dr. King had become a very serious threat to the divide-and-rule policies of the U.S. Government by expanding his organizing to include all peoples, as well as taking an unprecedented stand on the war in Vietnam just one year earlier.
In Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he wrote,
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly….
Long live the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.