On the night before he was assassinated in Memphis, TN, Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed a small group of people. And in that speech he said
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life–longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now… I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
The cause he was in Memphis to help further was a strike by the newly formed Sanitation Workers Union, who were working to get better pay and improved working conditions. One of the signs that the strking workers carried said, “I am a man.”
Yesterday, as I returned to my hotel, I rounded the corner on to Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta and encountered the Martin Luther King Day Parade. It was an eclectic affair, comprised of groups representing the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts, the “Free Tibet” movement. And many more.
The group photographed here carried replica signs that copied and extended the message of the Memphis sanitation workers union: “I am still a Man.”
On the day after a black man took the oath of office for the presidency of the United States, I am left thinking about “the promised land.” No, America isn’t the promised land and I don’t think Barack will lead us there. But I believe we have moved much closer to the promise that the US holds for all of its citizens.
Two days ago, I gave up my seat at the front of the bus to an elderly black woman, who smiled pleasantly at me as she sat. I was not trying to make a statement. I was not thinking about race. I was only doing what was right. Today, I realize that perhaps my act stands as a small symbol of the promise King spoke about the night before he died.