Tag Archive: Dr. Martin Luther King

nelson_mandela_photo_black_whiteIn 1990 I sat in front of my television at that moment and watched how Nelson Mandela walked out of prison … and tears started flowing.

Upon hearing of his passing, reading the words of the faithful and memorials of leaders worldwide, I listened deeply. I still hear Mandela’s transcendence, a man like only a handful of others, whose life transformed beyond the individual story-line. He made a good heart great; his vision was as wide, focused only upon the well-being of all and encouraged all to do likewise.

Mandela’s ability to use words to breathe life into social issues was his most powerful weapon. For him transcendence was essential. While politicians openly talk of repairing the injustice, Mandela found one could only transcend and transform it. He transcended brutality via four immeasurable minds—loving kindness; compassion; joy; and equanimity. He remained calm and concentrated. He looked deeply into the nature of suffering and with sudden understanding his heart was able to expand. He not only felt the power to bear injustice; he could survive it, he could live with it, and more importantly, he could transform it.

Only few could live the life Mandela led. How we would live in a world where evil ran like an open sewer is a hard question and should provoke great reflection. Like a great Tibetan master, Mandela countered negative energy with positive thought and action. He made himself an example, a light, a beacon … and openly practiced grace in all opportunities thrust upon him. In the vilest forms of hate, he showed the world forgiveness, love, dedication, and peace.

Mandela is an icon for centuries. He believed in human dignity, equality and freedom. He struggled not only for black South Africans, but for the dignity of all. Going into prison he was carbon but emerged a diamond. His brilliance remains undiminished. His character was resolve; he may have lost a life, but gained a nation.

As Mandela noted:

… the human body has an enormous capacity for adjusting to trying circumstances. I have found that one can bear the unbearable if one can keep one’s spirits strong even when one’s body is being tested. Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.”

What Mandela taught me was the real source of transcendence does not come from a superior war machine, but from one’s internal constitution, our own individual leadership and our view within the global community. We must continually embrace our history and vision for human rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to live together — black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu — a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

At 90 years old, Mandela said it was time to pass the burden onto new hands. Like a distance runner finishing a race, Mandela passed the baton to us, those who quickly becoming forefathers to a new generation. It’s up to us find a way of “living with each other in peace.” It’s time for us to lead. Can we find a way to fulfill our spirit without indignation of others? We have a large house, but can we do it?

Nelson Mandela will forever live in my constitution, in my view of society. How does he, if at all, live in you?

Martin-Luther-King-I-have-a-dreamIn truth, it’s awfully hard for me to connect with Dr. Martin Luther King. After all, I was only three years old at the time of his “I Have a Dream” speech.  But because I have several African-American friends, I can understand some level of racism by simply witnessing what they’ve endured.

Today, being a fifty-three year old Buddhist, I remember reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King:

The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person.  Not just his good work, but his very being was a source of great inspiration for me … On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors …  When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own . . . When those who represent a spiritual tradition embody the essence of their tradition, just the way they walk, sit, and smile speaks volumes about the tradition.” 

There have been times in my life when I have offended all sides of one issue or another. I have gone beyond meditation to campaign for internal dialogue of peace between colleagues and clients. I have walked in the aftermath of tsunamis,’ earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.  And I wish I could say I always lived and breathed in the core principles of Buddhism, but I have yet to live each and every moment in complete awareness of the present moment and the abandonment of worldly thoughts.

By walking across this small planet; having encountered and losing the greatest live of my life, I reflected on Martin Luther King’s humble and devout lifestyle. Of all I’ve read, I know Dr. King struggled with his role for many years. Many of his friends were killed. Yet they live on with him. Of course the words and choices were Martin’s. Yet his very words and life remain among us in many forms. His very being, as well as many unknown martyrs, continue with us today. Their spirits live because we live.

Still, my greatest fear is that our nation is becoming a nation of silent onlookers. In the face of hate, we shrug. In the face of brutality, we pass by. And in the face of mass murder, we simply accept. We must not remain silent. America is not merely black American, but all of America.

With that, I end with King’s words:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning; you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured; this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize the basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

Dr. Martin Luther King was very Christian, very Buddhist. Why can’t we all?

the_marchThe New York Times noted civil rights heroes, current movement leaders, labor leaders and Democratic officials addressed a vast crowd that stretched east from the Lincoln Memorial to the knoll of the Washington Monument today.

The New York Times also noted several memorable attendees:

  • One person in a hoodie with the phrase “American Justice;”
  • Several with signs urging “Support Trayvon’s Law” to repeal stand-your-ground gun measures; and
  • “We march because Trayvon Martin has joined Emmett Till in the pantheon of young black martyrs.”

Columnist Jerry L. Barrow was spot on several months ago when he authored, “What Do I tell My Son? “

… as I sit here at my computer more than a year later reading the reactions to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, I am gripped in fear. My soul is laminated in a coat of hopelessness at the thought of my son, who is presently enjoying a vacation 1500 miles away, being engaged on the street by someone who finds him suspicious because of his appearance and kills him.”

However, all the evidence in Till’s death points explicitly to race. And colorblind Americans accepted and failed to condemn his killers accordingly. The circumstances in Martin’s death merely suggest that Martin’s race was likely a factor in Zimmerman’s judgment of him.

From a personal perspective, when I think of Delbert Belton brutal killing by two black teenagers, I respond by asking a similar question, “What do I tell my 83 year old father?”  And truth be told, I have not seen Melissa Harris-Perry cry on television for Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old student at East Central University who was shot in the back and killed by three black teenagers while jogging in Duncan.  Similarly, I have not heard if NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock tweeted about how the black community failed to raise their children in an abundance of love and proper role models (and that’s not saying they don’t).

So I sit and wonder, what would Dr. Martin Luther King think of today’s era of racism and the 50th anniversary of the Marches in Washington, D.C.? Maybe Dr. King would emphasize Americans seem blinded to matters of color.  The racism strewn through every cornerstone of Dr. Martin Luther King’s day is the same racism that lives today.  Yeah, the time is different. True the people have changed. But the roots of oppression are from the very same weed.

Delbert Belton, Christopher Lane and Trayvon Martin should have never been killed. But I refuse to March in Washington, D.C. this week simply because someone believes Trayvon Martin is a civil rights hero or martyr.  Trayvon Martin was neither. But I will march in Washington for the following reasons:

  • The black unemployment rate last year was 14.0 percent, 2.1 times the white unemployment rate (6.6 percent) and higher than the average national unemployment rate of 13.1 percent during the Great Depression, from 1929 to 1939.
  • After adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage today — 7.25 — is worth $2.00 less than in 1968, and is nowhere close to a living wage.
  • More than a third of non-Hispanic black workers (36 percent) do not earn hourly wages high enough to lift a family of four out of poverty.
  • A report by the Violence Policy Center found black males are nine times more likely than white males to be the victims of homicide — 29.50 out of 100,000 black males compared with 3.85 out of 100,000 white males.
  • A study found the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites.
  • The imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

For the above reasons, I will stand by your side and fight the fight worth fighting, for these reasons are worthy of Dr. Martin’s dream.