By Dr. Javon Jackson
The New Citizens Press
LANSING, MI—The African-American community owes a great debt to Susan J. Hill, the director of the Capital Area District Library, which governs 13 local libraries and a bookmobile, and Kathy Johnson, the head librarian at the downtown main library, and their staff for their annual honoring of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday with a relevant, insightful, and delightful presentation with prestigious guest speakers.
The renown panel consisted of the Ms. Rina Risper, the president and publisher of The New Citizens Press, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, and Gandhi scholar and American-Indian community leader, Dr. K.S. Sripad Raju.
They discussed the fact that today’s youth do not know much about the Civil Rights Movement and that today’s youth do not care much about it.
The youth know very little about the evil racist practices, the lynchings, murders, tortures, mutilations, bombings, burnings, frame-ups, police and mob beatings, racial intimidation and harassment.
The youth do not know much about how American citizens who demonstrated for Civil Rights were often shot, poked with electric cattle prodders, attacked by vicious police dogs, beaten by police with billy clubs, and torrentially sprayed by fire hoses.
The panel emphasized that this was not a movement for African-Americans citizens only but a movement for justice for all people.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born at noon on Tuesday, January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Ms. Risper lamented that she wished that she could have seen him and wished that there was another Dr. King in America today.
The library viewed some videotaped sound bites of Dr. King.
One bite showed his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Some of the excerpts from this speech are the following:
“…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!
“…And, when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”
Another sound bite featured his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, which he delivered on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, which was the day before his villainously, untimely death.
One of the excerpts from this speech is the following:
“…Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And, I don’t mind.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.
“And, He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And 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!
“ And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Dunnings explained the events that led up to the Dr. King assassination.
In 1968, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute helped lead the fight for affirmative action and a national minimum wage.
These events inspired Dr. King to go to Memphis to help find a resolution to the Memphis sanitation strike.
Dunnings denoted that many whites helped in the history of the movement. (Many whites, especially Quakers, helped slaves escape through the underground railroad.)
And, that whites helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with African-American citizens as a protest organization formed to rid America of lynching and mob violence and racial inequality.
(The NAACP was formed in 1909 in New York City by sixty prominent citizens on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Ida Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villiard, and William English Walling were the principal leaders.)
Dunnings warned the audience of the new Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) conducted by California “negro” Ward Connerly, which would end affirmative action programs in Michigan,
He also cited the unequal societal conditions and unequal opportunities especially in the suburban and inner-city school districts.
He also chided babies having babies.
Dr. Raju stressed the basic values of life. He clarified that we need more “cultural workers” to help take care of our communities.
He asserted that Dr. King’s dream was positive and was not filled with negative protest, arguments, and violence because peace and love are more effective.
Many audience members gave their racial testimonies and many members wanted to help the cause.
The panel ended by recommending that we organize a race forum of diverse factions to listen to and to solve our cultural problems.
The panel came up with some solutions to help solve the problems that were denoted that Sunday.
Dunnings declared that we must stop the Connerly Civil Rights Initiative in Michigan because in California Connerly’s forces gathered over 500,000 signatures on petitions in favor of this initiative also known as Prop. 209 which passed by a vote of 54-46% on November 5, 1996 and which ended preferences and changed California law.
In Washington state a similar proposition (I-200) also passed.
Despite the political spin on affirmative action, the greatest number of benefactors is not African-American citizens or other minorities but white women. (The Michigan League of Women Voters President Anne Magoun highlighted that affirmative action has helped open doors for women.)
He stated that we must eliminate gender bias as well as racial bias.
Dunnings noted the great digital divide.
He congratulated the library for having public computer facilities for adults and children, who both may not have home computers.
But, he cautioned that the two largest website hits occurred on the racial hatred and child pornography websites according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Lastly, he said that babies having babies have to be reduced and that young parents need parenting classes.
He added that we must care for each other in order to bring us together.
Mrs. Risper reported that we could increase our economic base by supporting minority causes.
She gave the example of the wage dispute between Mount Olive growers and their olive pickers by stating that we could talk to store owners who carry that product.
Mrs. Risper also announced that people should develop new interests. She mentioned that she first met Dr. Raju at a Hindu Temple in Haslett, Michigan.
For more information on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., you may go to these following websites:
Mrs. Risper suggested the City of Lansing Mayor Initiative on Race and Diversity Website: www.humanrelations.cityoflansing.com; (517) 483-4477.
The Capital Area District Library’s (CADL) main library is located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue in Lansing, MI 48933.
The information desk telephone number is (517) 367-6363.
The hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Monday thru Thursday; 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday;
You can even pick up a copy of The New Citizens Press in the main lobby.