Most people point to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on this day, but given the times we are in now, perhaps more apt ones to point to would be “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” delivered April 4, 1967, during an appearance at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at the Riverside Church in Harlem, or “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” a sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.
Let me say finally that I oppose the war in Vietnam because I love America. I speak out against this war, not in anger, but with anxiety and sorrow in my heart, and, above all, with a passionate desire to see our beloved country stand as the moral example of the world. I speak out against this war because I am disappointed with America. And there can be no great disappointment where there is not great love. I am disappointed with our failure to deal positively and forthrightly with the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism. We are presently moving down a dead-end road that can lead to national disaster. America has strayed to the far country of racism and militarism.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
But getting back to that dream about equality that Dr. King gave during that speech in D.C. — it’s probably best he’s not around to see what his surviving daughter Bernice has been up to (his other daughter, Yolanda King passed away; she was a staunch ally).
“I know deep down in my sanctified soul that he did not take a bullet for same-sex unions.”
— Bernice King, the anti-gay daughter of Dr. King, who, ironically, marched with the now-scandal ridden Bishop Eddie Long to “save marriage” with a constitutional amendment in 2004.
Based on what? She was a child when Martin Luther King was shot — her mother knew and understood the man’s views, yet Bernice still cannot reconcile the possibility that her father could embrace the concept of civil equality for gays. Her father had, at his side in the movement, an openly gay man, Bayard Rustin, assisting him in the early days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Will the Bernice Kings of the world ever come around to embrace the idea that equality includes fighting for the rights of her LGBT friends, neighbors and loved ones? And more importantly, will allies in the civil rights struggle continue to work to bring discussions about this schism into view?
One ally who marched with Dr. King, shed blood for equality and today does speak out for LGBT rights is U.S. Congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis (D-GA).
More below the fold.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Congressman at the Equality Alabama dinner back in 2009. He gave a speech that if you closed your eyes, you could believe Dr. King would give it on behalf of the LGBT community. From my coverage:
It was an amazing evening with many old and new friends at Equality Alabama’s Gala Saturday night. The highlight was keynote speaker Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who is a native of Troy, Alabama. His played a legendary fearless role in the civil rights struggles of the 60s — and he is man who believes in LGBT civil equality with equal conviction — he immediately signed on to DOMA repeal legislation.
This is significant in a day when there is a clear dearth of support in the religious black community; Lewis has the moral standing that a homophobe in the pulpit like Bishop Harry Jackson can never touch. John Lewis took batons to the head, was beaten to unconsciousness multiple times for equality — courage and moral conviction that Jackson and his fellow charlatans of bigotry are bereft of.
Rep. Lewis spoke eloquently about the simplicity of the government staying out of the lives of gay and lesbian couples — there is no need to “save” marriage from two people who simply want to love one another and be legally affirmed in the same way that heterosexual couples are when they marry.
But perhaps the most powerful message was to those in the LGBT community who are waiting for equality to come to them — Lewis charged us to seize the moment, do not accept being told to wait your turn, to demand your rights through your representative, and most of all take personal responsibility — the message we all heard was loud and clear. Too many LGBTs are in the closet waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting and LEAD. We are all capable of leading by kicking that closet door open. The main meat of the speech begins around 5:00 — and you will want to hear it all. The man had the audience spellbound.