Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day Speech in Elberton, GA


I want to thank Mary Clark for inviting me to be here tonight.  You can tell how much Mary cares about justice and this community by the amount of effort and creativity she puts into this event year after year.  Mary is a great teacher, a wonderful wife and mother and a true community hero.  You are so blessed to have her here.  She is what God calls us to be – faith without work is dead.

Our father’s God to Thee, Author of Liberty.  To thee we sing.  Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light.  Protect us by thy might.  Great God our King.

You have heard the expression, It is always darkest just before dawn.   According to one source it means, There is hope, even in the worst of circumstances.  No one seems to know where the proverb came from.  It has been around at least since 1650 when it appeared in a travelogue written by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller.

There are some examples in history of our people of darkness before dawn.

Suppose Frederick Douglass and the abolitionists had given up when the Dred Scot decision was rendered in 1857, three years before the Civil War?  That was a dark time.   March 1857 Supreme Courts issues Dred Scott Decision which declares unconstitutional the Missouri Compromise of 1820. was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court.

Suppose the women’s suffrage movement had given up.  We just celebrated 100 years of Delta Sigma Theta.  Did you know that all the red and white hoopla got started because 22 young ladies at Howard University wanted the right to vote?  They marched down Pennsylvania Avenue with white women.  It took seven more years for them to get the right to vote.  You can’t let darkness hold you back from doing what is right. Women voted in New Zealand in 1893, in Australia in 1895;  in Russia in 1907 and in Finland in 1913. 

Suppose we had given up trying to get the King Holiday.  When I was a student at UGA we marched around the law school every year from 1977 to 1980, protesting for the King Holiday.  It finally became a holiday in 1983 when Ronald Reagan signed the bill.  But that was after 6 million Americans signed a petition in favor of the holiday.  South Carolina was the last state to make it an official holiday – in 2000.  Thousands of people marched in Greenville – making Greenville County the last county in the last state.  And we had to cross over and vote in the Republican primary to defeat anti-King Holiday county commissioners. 

And there is plenty of darkness in our world today.  John Conyers, Congressman from Michigan, is still fighting for same day onsite voter registration.  He started the fight back in the 1980’s.  And if he doesn’t finish it, then one of you will have to pick up the baton and run your leg of the race.  Adjusted for inflation, the average Georgia family in effect makes $6000 less than the average family did ten years ago. That’s a real pay cut.”

According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia has the sixth highest poverty rate in the country. More than one in four Georgia families with children under the age of five live below the poverty line. Rural Georgians have been hit particularly hard – twenty-seven percent live below the poverty line.

On Deal’s watch, classroom sizes have swelled as a result of 9,000 teachers losing their jobs. Eighty percent of Georgia’s school districts have now exceeded class-size caps. Eighty percent of Georgia school districts will furlough teachers this year due to cuts in state funding. Thirty-eight percent of districts have been forced to make cuts on programs that help low-performing students. Seventy-one percent of Georgia’s school districts have cut their school calendar to fewer than 180 days. Before Nathan Deal took office, Ninety percent of students in Georgia attended school 180 days or more.

Some of you know that my father was a hall of fame high school football coach during the days of segregation in Greenville, SC.  We grew up with football.  We had x’s and o’s at the dinner table.  We had the portable tv in the dining room for Sunday dinner so he could watch the nfl game of the week.  He had a favorite saying.  Don’t get in the give up formation.  Get in the Shotgun formation.  Get in the I.  But don’t get in the give up formation. 

Don’t give up on fighting poverty.

Don’t give up on expanding Medicaid.

Don’t give up on a high quality public education for all children.

Don’t give up on the right to vote.

Because if you think you are beaten you are.

GEORGIA IS CHANGING.  Georgia's 16 electoral votes will be in play over the next decade according to demographers.  In 2012, Georgia was the second most competitive state carried by Mitt Romney (+7.8 percent Romney) -- behind only North Carolina (+2.0 percent Romney).  In 2000, Georgia's population was 63 percent white; as of the 2010 Census the state's population is 56 percent white.  Of the state's 1.5 million new residents between 2000 and 2010, more than 80 percent (1.2 million, or 81 percent) were non-white.  Demographics are destiny" is a political clich√© largely because it's true.  But change is not automatic.  We must organize, register and vote.  And we must be prepared to lead.  A steady diet of twerking and marijuana does not leaders make.  Leaders need to think, compute, write standard English.

            And some things are more important than winning.  Rev. Jackson likes to say, leave some footprints on the door.  If you can’t get in….leave some footprints on the door.

I want to say a word about Medicaid.  Some of you can’t remember 1988 and the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.  Jesse Jackson was running for President for the second time.  Michael Dukakis was the frontrunner and the Democratic Party’s nominee.  Jackson won Michigan and South Carolina – so he had a significant number of electoral votes going into the convention.  And the convention was in Atlanta. It was electric. It was the first time that a black man was seriously considered for the Presidency of the United States.  In Atlanta he said something like this…

 

Most poor people are not lazy. Most poor people are not on welfare.

hey catch the early bus. They work every day.

They raise other people's children. They work every day.

They clean the streets. They work every day. They change the beds you slept in in these hotels last night and can't get a union contract. They work every day.

No, no, they are not lazy! They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commodes. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day.

 

Now, 25 years later, we are about to make it possible for them to lie in the bed they make up every day.  Call Nathan Deal at 404 656 1776.  Tell him to expand Medicaid.  Join Moral Monday.

Sometimes dawn takes a long time coming.  Sometimes the darkness lasts a long time. Tyrone Brooks fought to change the Georgia flag for more than ten years before it happened.  Don’t give up the fight.  Don’t get in the give up formation. When it is dark, that is when you have to let your little light shine.

Let it shine

Let it shine

Let it shine

Don’t give up the fight.  The race does not go to the swiftest or to the strong, but to those who endure…until the sun comes up.

The Bible says we have a great cloud of witnesses watching us and cheering us on.  By Faith, Abraham.  By Faith, Moses, By Faith, sarah.  But also, By Faith Martin Luther King.  By Faith, Harriet Tubman.   Who do you think sent the bol weevil to destroy the cotton and the cotton gin to destroy slavery?  Are these any less miracles than the red sea and the manna from heaven because we don’t teach them to our children that way and because these miracles happened only a little less than two hundred years ago.  Do you believe that God is still acting in the affairs of men?

Well, if you believe in a miracle working God, I will tell you something.

If we believe that God is the author of liberty.  Then we should pray that our  land be bright with freedom’s holy light.  And that He will protect us by his might. 

I saw Toyota sign  a 7.8 billion dollar deal to do business with blacks.

I saw Kentucky Fried Chicken commit 20 million dollars to open black franchises.  They did not want to do it, but by the power of the Holy Spirit they did.

I saw the Greenville County Council adopt the King Holiday.  They didn’t want to do it but they did.

I have seen miracles in my life.  I saw George Bush sign the extension of the voting rights act.  He did not want to do it, but he did.  I have seen a lot of things in my life.  You can’t tell me that God is not good, or that miracles don’t exist. I have been punting on the Thames and seen the fjords of Norway.  I saw my mother take her last breath and my grandson take his first step.  I have seen a lot. I flew in airplanes all day on September 10th and got home just before day and just in time to avoid 911.

I have seen a lot.

But I have never seen the righteous forsaken…or their seed begging bread.

May God continue to bless and keep you.

 

 

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