On Martin Luther King Jr: Your Dreams Are Still Valid
Few months before Theresa May moved into 10 Downing Street, a friend told me about his dream of securing a scholarship for a course in the United Kingdom. His academic records were in sharp contrast to the grades of the past winners of this scholarship and it looked more like a wishful thinking. But he did what most people often ignore – he went to work and gave a hard push on his dreams. He pushed so hard that the universe caved in and supported the feeble knees of his dreams until they became a reality.
Ever since 1968, April 4 has been separated as a day to reflect on the illustrious life of Martin Luther King Jr. A day when one of America’s greatest civil rights activist was killed in cold blood. Though he was assassinated, his dreams lived on. In fact, his dreams did the unthinkable. Close to half-a-century after his death, his dream produced America’s first black President. King’s tenacity to fight for the freedom of the blacks was beyond passion, he embodied it.
Before his name could fit perfectly on the lips of everyone, he paid a price. He sacrificed his comfort, his sleep, his peace and his life for a cause he believed in. King’s commitment lit the flames of passion in the hearts of his followers. Little sparks here and there started a movement that crushed the ideologies and laws of White supremacists in the US.
As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of King’s death, I have no intention of educating you about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. because a lot has been written and said about him. I am just here to give you a nudge as you pursue your dreams.
What price are you willing to pay for your dreams?
On January 26, 1956, King was arrested as part of a campaign to intimidate the bus boycotters in Montgomery. The bus boycott lasted for 382 days until victory was ascertained: the Supreme Court of the United States declared segregation laws on public transport to be unconstitutional.
Four days after the arrest, his house was bombed.
In September 1958, he had a close shave with death when he was stabbed by an assailant at a book signing held in Harlem.
On October 19, 1960, King was arrested and sentenced to four months in jail. However, he was released shortly after intervention by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert.
On December 16, 1961, King was arrested in Albany for leading a protest without a permit.
On July 27, 1962, he was arrested and jailed for holding a prayer vigil in Albany, Georgia. He was released on August 10.
On Good Friday, April 12, 1963, King was arrested and jailed alongside Ralph Abernathy for demonstrating without a permit in Birmingham. During his days in prison, he authored his historic “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
In May 1963, segregationists bombed Gaston Motel where King was staying.
On June 11, 1964, King was arrested while protesting for integration of public accommodations in St. Augustine, Florida.
On February 2, 1965, King was arrested in Selma, Alabama during a voting rights demonstration.
On August 5, 1966, a mob of angry whites stoned King while leading a march in Chicago.
On October 30, 1967, he was arrested and jailed in Birmingham for demonstrating without a permit. He spent four days in jail.
Before King’s dream placed him on the front cover of TIME Magazine in January 1964 as its Man of the Year, his dream landed him in jail on several occasions. He was stoned and described as crazy in the books of many. But the only reason we all read about him today was because he never gave up.
In the pursuit of your dreams, you may find yourself locked in solitude; a world of your own that makes you look like a cipher to others. People just find it hard to understand your spirited optimism about the future. Often, it looks like a prison but this is to let you know that you won’t be behind the bars forever.
King was popularly known for his non-violence methods of resisting opposition. Alongside his wife, Coretta, he travelled on a pilgrimage to India for a month in February 1959 to learn from the works of Mahatma Gandhi. Beyond his inspiring speeches and words that moved mountains of black segregation, he was approachable and compassionate at heart. He was special because he had immense love for the people.
At some point, while learning to use the ropes, you will need people. You can’t do it alone. You may need to reach out to a friend. Ask for the help of a mentor. Seek the counsel of others. If all you need to achieve your dream is you, then your dream is not big enough to influence the world.
For black segregation to end in the US, demonstrations were held, protesters were beaten, activists were killed but the dream thrived on. When the time was ripe for the dream to be tested, the man at the center of the movement had to pay the ultimate price. But today, black Americans are winning the war against racism because a man was bold enough to “have a dream.”
A day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, he was killed by a sniper while standing the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
My friend, your dreams are still valid. You can still push through the blankets of obscurity and reach out to the world with your message of hope. Your prison today maybe the discomfort you go through because of some personal sacrifices but you never can tell who your dream will inspire tomorrow.
Everyone that met King before the 1963 historic speech “I Have a Dream” knew what he stood for. He kept talking about it to everyone.
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral – and if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy tell him not to talk too long. Tell him not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that’s not important. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Today is the best day to start writing that book and tell your friends about the song you have always wanted to write.
Many men and women have died but the best of them offered the world a gift before their last breath – a dream that outlives them.
Your dreams are still valid. Let them breathe and let them blossom like the lilies by the riverside.
Also published on Medium.