EDITORIAL: Let’s really honour King
Last weekend,?thousands of miles away from Barbados, an event took place that should have been of interest to most of us here – the unveiling of an impressive monument to the late Martin Luther King Jr at the National Mall in the United States capital of Washington, DC.
The monument, not without controversy, was done by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. However, most people, including those who personally knew and worked with the late civil rights leader, have described it as a fitting tribute to King’s legacy.
Yes, it was his legacy of justice and peace that has resonated with right-thinking people, regardless of colour, class or creed, across the world.
This point did not escape Mr Lei when he responded to some of those who felt that an American, and moreso a black American, ought to have done the monument, which stands 30 feet tall.
“Martin Luther King is not only a hero of Americans, he also is a hero of the world and he pursued the universal dream of the people of the world,” Lei pointed out.
Oh, so true. Against some of the most bigoted people of his time, against institutionalized racism and even when the odds were stacked against him, King preached non-violence and stood for what was right, just and decent.
His words touched many, none moreso than his I Have A Dream speech at the event-altering march on Washington in 1963. It helped to change one of the most despicable periods of American history.
Unfortunately, King was assassinated in?Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39, but his work paved the way for so many Blacks in the United States and beyond.
One of the many who attended the inauguration last Sunday – Emma Logan, who travelled with a group from Atlanta for the ceremony – explained it succinctly: “If it wasn’t for Dr King, President Obama wouldn’t be here today. He opened up all those doors for us and everything.”
Some people in?Barbados saw the value of King’s tremendous work, recognizing that it went far beyond America’s boundaries. At the time, this country was still under colonial rule and even though there were no Jim Crow laws here, equality simply did not exist for most Blacks.
But there were clear parallels so many Barbadians could identify with what King spoke about and what he demanded for many Americans.
To their credit, Clyde Gollop, the late outstanding social worker, teacher and family planning proponent, and Sinclair Rudder, the late Baptist preacher and social and political activist, championed King’s cause and paid homage to him on an annual basis.
Few Barbadians publicly supported their efforts, so it was left to American diplomats stationed here to lend support. Without Gollop or Rudder, King’s contribution is all but forgotten here.
Yes, we have lauded his efforts over the years, and his remarkable oratory skills. We have recognized the good he has done for justice and equality. But that is all we have done: talk.
We have done nothing to keep names like King and Nelson Mandela, who would have been two of the greatest leaders of the 20th century, etched in perpetuity – none of our governments, nor our university.
Martin Luther King Jr is certainly a man without glory in Barbados.