The Beat of Laurel: Reflections: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Bob Reilly
Every week while driving in the city of Washington D.C., I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. as I drive by his memorial statue off Independence Ave., or when I drive on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast. Then, of course, when we celebrate his life in January every year as a federal holiday.
In addition, I cannot count the number of riders who bring up King in their conversations. The current state of affairs, in our country and around the world, is heartbreaking. Vision and love are lacking among many world leaders; thus, the life of King is further amplified as an iconic standout. He had both the gift of vision and love, and as a vessel of God’s purpose, King marched forward, and his message was clear.
I completely understand why this current sociopolitical movement disassociates from him and his call for peaceful protests.
During the COVID-19 global pandemic, passions were running high, and confusion, fear and chaos reigned. And as human nature would have it, anytime something goes wrong or can’t be explained, people are quick to find scapegoats. Some persons or groups are to blame for the ills of society, and a global pandemic is a trigger point as good as any.
Emotional instability, uncertainty and fear make for ready soil to plant distorted ideas and easy finger-pointing.
A perfect storm scenario for opportunists of every stripe, political belief or otherwise to fill the void of normalcy.
Such was our global environment during this crisis.
So, here we are today.
To some, King was simply not radical, violent or extreme enough to be considered a prominent figure in alignment with the “by any means necessary” mantra of today.
For me and many other people around the world, he helped bridge some of the racial divides through his heart for all humanity. King was inspired by the nonviolent protests model established by Mahatma Gandhi. King believed Gandhi took the love exemplified in Christianity and creatively forged the successful nonviolent sociopolitical movement in India.
Many considered the social change realized through Martin Luther King Jr’s inspired and bold approach to protesting was the second Civil War in the U.S.
His dream was our collective dream.
His life, unwavering faith, clarity and dedicated pursuit of truly non-violent protests exemplified self control, grace and undeniable maturity in a time when such constraint must have been unbearable for a Black man in this country. Through Jim Crow racism, God’s spirit shouldered his burden and elevated him above the fray. King’s words, seasoned with determination and clarity, will inspire humankind long after the violence, hate, destruction and the many isms associated with this present moment in history pass on.
Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for being a positive and desperately needed example of love and hope to and for humankind.
Thank you for laying down your life in pursuit of your calling.
As an artist, I realize that sometimes stark contrasts bring out the beauty of a composition.
His social justice movement, and his very life, are a stark contrast to the current movement we see around the globe today.
I believe his own words summed up this concept brilliantly.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
King’s life was, and is, beautiful to behold.
The light of his life shines even more powerfully in the darkness of this present age.