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Martin Luther King Day & NonViolent Action

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From: Webmaster (
Date: Mon Jan 15 2001 - 17:47:06 EST

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Good People,

I wanted to share some personal greetings as part of
Martin Luther King Day.  Certainly, he is the most modern
example of a leader who used NonViolent Action very
effectively in the cause of Civil Rights.

I find it discouraging to hear some people say, "well,
we can expect family law change in the next 10-20 years."
I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait that
long!  In the 1950's, when blacks were sitting in the
back of the buses, a lot of very smart people were saying
the samething about segregation.  Many of them even said
it would never change -- imagine that!

Martin Luther King was a man of great faith and he didn't
feel like waiting either. This was a matter of human dignity.
I encourage you to visit the site to read more, but I have
also included some excerpts from his life that I think we
can all relate too as parents forced to the "back" of our
childrens lives (excerpts at the end of this message).

Change happened rapidly in Alabama.  He and many others
took a risk and it worked beyond many peoples wildest dreams!
It is now our turn to have faith and try.  It is our duty
to do the work and plant the seed (the Almighty will see
to making it grow).

So far we have had a good response to our planned joint
event in Syracuse for this April.
People have volunteered for many different roles, but I'm
still waiting for some other parents to commit to join me
as "walkers," and carry a picture of their kids inside
our Federal Building. I look forward to meeting you and
walking with you as parents united for a common goal!

It will be a milestone in our movement for Civil Rights
when more than just one parent makes this effort.  It will
certainly help bring the publicity and sympathetic public
ear we will need to overcome present legislative hurdles.

In a recent phone conversation I was told, "Non violence has
not worked." There is so much confusion about what NonViolent
Action is. It is NOT having an authorized protest march. It
is NOT about writing your legislators. It is NOT about not
cooperating with a Court Order and getting jailed.

It is about you taking peaceful ACTION which may result in
personal sacrifice as you attempt to call attention to
injustice.  It is about having a positive and friendly
attitude, especially toward your oppressor, that will help
them undergo personal conversion.

PERSONALLY -- my mother and I are flying out to
see my 7 year old son, Domenic, this Thursday.  Words cannot
express the anticipation I feel about just being together
again.  It's been eight months apart and I can't stand
another day! I think of many of you who have been eight YEARS
apart from your children, or even had to watch as the system
slowly alienated them from you -- what a tragic event!

IN CLOSING -- think about the misery a lot of blacks went
through in the 50's and 60's as they sacrificed for the
simple right to sit in the front of the bus, or use the same
bathroom, or just eat at the same lunch counter.  Some were
beaten, had their homes burned, or watched family members
killed by the KKK.  What do you think they would say to us?
What is worse?  Being asked to just sit in the back of a bus
-- or sit by while you are separated from your child?

Best regards!
John Murtari (

======================== excerpts from life of King.

Born in 1929 in a "middle-class" section of black Atlanta, Georgia. His
father was a self made man, strong willed, and an established Baptist
Minister. His mother was quite, deliberate, and slow to anger.

He learned about how it was in the South when at the age of five, his
friendship with a young white boy was interrupted when they had to attend
separate schools. His mother told him, "You must never feel that you are
less then anybody else. You must always feel that you are somebody."

In high school he and a teacher were returning home from a special trip on a
bus, as the bus grew more crowded with whites the driver told them they must
stand and move to the back. King initially refused, but then moved to the
back, later he remembered it, "That night will never leave my mind. It was
the angriest I have ever been in my life."

He went to Moorehouse College, choosing Sociology as a major, during the
summers he willing worked as a manual laborer so that he could relate to the
people, to "learn their plight and to feel their feelings." He began to feel
that the system of capitalism exploited blacks and encouraged racism. He
began to lessen his anger towards whites, and redirected it toward the
system. Graduated in 1948, B.A. Sociology.

Started school at Crozer Seminary in Pennsylvania, one of the best
seminaries in the country. Through his course of study to a Doctorate in
Divinity, he pursued a goal of learning how to eliminate social evil. From
the writing of Walter Rauschenbusch, a theologian who taught in the 1890s,
he began to see the significance of an active Christian faith which must
work for the kingdom "down here", as well as "over yonder".

He rejected the writing of Karl Marx, it conflicted with his faith that, "at
the heart of reality is a Heart, a living Father who works through history
for the salvation of his children." Marx denied that spiritual foundation.
King also could not accept the notion that the ends justified the means;
however, he did appreciate Marx's criticism of cut-throat capitalism.

Booker T. Washington had advised blacks earlier in the century to forgot
bucking segregation, recently approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy
v. Ferguson (1896). He urged them to work on self improvement and to try to
earn the respect of the whites who would later learn to treat them as
brothers. This would preserve racial peace. Others also supported voluntary
segregation, a unique Negro community. Many black preachers urged their
congregations to accept the status quo -- that all would be well when they
entered the promised land. King rebelled against this, "the Negro's mind and
soul were enslaved." How were blacks to get rights in a country ruled by a
white majority. He read Henry David Thoreau, and became excited by the idea
that one honest man could set in motion a moral revolution!

There was a Southern Student at the seminary who was virulently anti-Black.
He confronted King at his dorm room with a loaded pistol. King calmly spoke
with the man and disarmed the situation. There was "outrage" on campus over
the incident, but King refused to press charges against the man. Eventually
the man apologized and he and King became friends. This was an important
event in learning how to convert a foe into a friend.

Not naive, King began to have doubts about the ability of Christian love to
produce real social change. Much of his reading of history had shown him how
impotent love could appear to be. It had not ended slavery in the South, and
didn't stop the Second World War -- he wondered if he could be a pacifist.
Reviewing the writing of Nietzsch his faith was shaken by words that
proclaimed that God was dead and that man was driven by the basest emotions,
only the strong survive. Maybe "loving your neighbor" worked in private
situations, but surely not between nations or classes of people.

He attended a seminar on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, and how he had
used truth & love into a powerful source for social change. Gandhi had gone
through dramatic personal change in his life, early in his life and in a fit
of rage, he had tried to drive his wife from their home. Gandhi showed him
that it was possible to redirect anger and turn it into a positive force.
Nonviolence meant noncooperation with evil. Gandhi's history gave King a
blueprint to how strikes and protests could be conducted without hating your
oppressor, but also treating them with love and avoiding bitterness -- all
with a faith in divine justice. The term Satyagraha captured this
combination of love and force. This was not no resistance to evil, but
affirmative non-violent action in resistance to evil.

The example of Gandhi's success in India motivated King, here was a proven
example of the power of love to effect radical social change in an
environment that was equally as bitter as the black was experiencing in the
South. Through Christian love, "agape", King saw that life was interrelated,
that all men were brothers, that humanity was a single process.


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