Reflections From Harvey Drake: 50yrs After The Assassination of MLKing
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.
It was a dark dreary night when the news alert danced across our TV screen. What we heard and saw had my family in a state of unbelief that soon turned into grief. How did this happen? And even more importantly, why did that happen? It was April 4, 1968 the day that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was felled by an assassin’s bullet the day after giving what is called his “Mountain Top” speech that was given in Memphis, TN at the headquarters of the Church of God In Christ. It was just two months before Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
What a sad day it was in the life and history of our nation. A leader, who happened to be African American, was taken from us in the midst of, what some would say, was the greatest social revival our nation had seen up to that point. He was a maker of history and drum major and icon in the movement for peace. All he wanted was for the people who were the least, the lost and the forgotten to receive what had been promised to all of American citizens, but had only been granted and accessible to White Americans.
Rev. King had become the representative of millions of Black Americans. He had become the champion of righteousness and justice— not just for Black Americans but for all Americans. He wanted our nation to be a place of justice that promoted human flourishing for all of its citizens.
He modeled for us how we should conduct ourselves in the face of hatred and tyranny. He prayed before every march. He went to jail for simply standing up for the rights of those being locked out of our society.
I was just 13 years old when Dr. King was stolen from us by one who was filled with unimaginable vitriol and imprisoned by incendiary hatred. I was not as politically astute as others and could not articulate what I felt at the time but I know something was not right. Additionally, at that age I had no idea that humans could hate so deeply. I was so personally overwhelmed with grief and disgust.
When I went to school the next day I had forgotten about the principles of nonviolence which Rev. King believed so strongly in. I am embarrassed now by my actions because I became nearly as cruel to my White classmates as James Earl Ray was to Rev. King. I committed acts of violence that I later, after becoming a devoted follower of Jesus, had to repent for. And you know how hard it is to confess when you are wrong.
As I got older I began to understand why Dr. King’s actions, and the movement he become the spokesman for, were so cogent and dynamic. I recognized that his dream was built on the dream of The King of Kings: God the Father created all in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27). Jesus prayed that we would “be one as he and the Father were one” (John 17:20-23). And through the Apostle Paul the Lord said that we would participate in the ministry of reconciliation, with God and each other (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Paul also said that we should prefer others above ourselves (Phil 2:1-4). My point is that the life and actions of Rev. King, and the core of those who walked with him, were deeply rooted in the principles found in the Holy Scriptures.
My prayer is that as we reflect on this day that we would renew our commitment to becoming the nation that Rev. Dr. King dreamed of “where we would be judged by the content of our haracter and not the color or our skin.”
Harvey Drake | President of Urban Impact