Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Martin L. King

It is so very amazing that this month we celebrate the life and legacy of a man who never talked hate, but was so hated by many who still cannot today tell why the hate was — and is — so intense for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We celebrate a man who allowed others to spit on him but never could hate enough to spit back. He was bitten by dogs but never could hate enough to shoot the dogs. He was hit with clubs but never raised his hand to strike back. He was kicked in the head but never could hate enough to kick back.

He had made a decision about that. He stated, “As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”

The time is now, for us in this city, state and country, to decide how to release our hate and bitterness. The national leaders of the annual national holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day have chosen the 2020 theme to be “The Urgency of Now.”

The Urgency of Now is most appropriate for our 2020 theme. One leader describes our situation as us sitting in a rocking chair and, because we are moving as we rock back and forth, we think that we are making progress. We are standing still, and we will still be there in the same place the next day and the day after.

I have heard the saying that gradualism leads to stand-stillism. Many of us have witnessed that dry place with no progress in our lives. We tell ourselves that we will gradually clean the house or gradually take care of an issue, but as time passes, we find ourselves not moving at all.

So here we are in America at a standstill, not moving on things that will bring us to equal justice under the law. That rocking-chair mentality will cause Blacks, Browns and Whites to assume that we have arrived. We were rocking but not making any progress toward the things that would bring about a more perfect union.

We look around and see the superficial diversity. We look around and see Blacks graduating from Harvard, Princeton, Yale. We look around and see Blacks who have become CEOs or corporate lawyers. We look around and see Blacks as chiefs of police departments. We look around and see Blacks as mayors. We see a Black man as president of the greatest country of the world. This keeps us from seeing the urgency of the time.

In reality, African-Americans are doing no better then when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.

Unemployment rates in the Black community are the same as in Third World countries. Included in that high rate is the number of Black and Brown people in prison. Many will say, “Well, they asked to be there.” Not so. The problem is they were not given the same care, compassion and concern at home, in school or in the community. Most of these people will never own homes, never be employed, never complete their education, never be in position to financially support a family.

Why is that so? The system says that is how it should be. We have set up a caste system — once labeled, always that brand.

Many will even say, “Well, what more do they want? What more do they need? They are better off today than they were yesterday. Why are they not satisfied with the progress that has been made?” When that is said, the individual should ask her/himself, “Have I been lulled to sleep by that unjustified rhetoric?”

This is not a blame game report. This a request to pull back the curtain and let in the light that is truth. Racism is so entrenched that without government intervention there would be little progress to boast about.

Are the Black and Brown people in this country better off today than they were in 1968? Most of us, including me, would like to say yes. But if our answer is yes, then how do we justify the mass incarceration? How do we justify the fact that we are now building more jails than schools? How do we justify more Black and Brown babies dying at birth or just before?

It is so easy to forget what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said over and over. “In order to change the caste system in America, the justice system requires a complete transformation of our social institutions and a dramatic restructuring of our economy, not superficial changes that can be purchased on the cheap.”

Dr. King goes on to say that, “The changes that have occurred to date are basically in the social and political areas. The problems we now face providing jobs, better housing and better education for the poor throughout the country will require money for their solution, a fact that makes those solutions all the more difficult.”

These are urgent times in which we live. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most inspiring and influential activists during the time of the civil rights movement in America. He saw this period of time coming and did his best to warn us. He did his best to prepare us for such a time as this.

May he continue to rest in peace. He left a written legacy to inspire us for generations to come.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of the African American Connection of the Performing Arts Inc.

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