Walking with Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Park Kalamazoo
Martin Luther King Park, photo by Bill Dolak

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
-Martin Luther King

The sculpture is “Martin Luther King” by Lisa Reinertson and her site includes an article about the sculpture:

A bronze portrait figure of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. strides forward confidently in a small park in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The statue, created by sculptor Lisa Reinertson, is only slightly larger than real life, but its presence is monumental.

Seen from a distance, the clerical robe worn by Reverend King strengthens the tall, pyramidal composition, while the robe’s flowing contours both animate the design and echo the character of this restless minister who was constantly on the march for freedom and justice.

Upon approaching the sculpture, which the viewer is drawn to do by its placement on a simple low pedestal, one sees that the robe is embellished with scenes from the civil rights struggle rendered in low relief. A black slave labors in a field near the hem of the robe, while a dark fold of the garment reveals the lynching of a man by the Ku Klux Klan. A Montgomery city bus and a portrait of Rosa Parks adorn the lower left side. The Selma to Montgomery march and King’s I Have a Dream speech are depicted elsewhere. One also finds images of voter registration, school desegregation, the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter sit in, and the use of firehoses to break up the peaceful 1963 Birmingham demonstrations. Down King’s broad back the vertical folds of the cloth evolve into the bars of the Birmingham Jail with a pensive King seated behind them. Above him is the image of Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired King’s use of non-violent civil disobedience.

View Bill’s photo from MLK Park in Kalamazoo background big and see more in his MASSIVE Kalamazoo slideshow.

More about Martin Luther King on Michigan in Pictures.

MLK Say!

MLK Say by Rudy Malmquist

MLK Say !, photo by Rudy Malmquist

“And so we must say, now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to transform this pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our nation.

…this social revolution taking place can be summarized in three little words. They are not big words. One does not need an extensive vocabulary to understand them. They are the words “all,” “here,” and “now.” We want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now.

…With this faith, we will be able to achieve this new 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 with the Negroes in the spiritual of old: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King in Detroit, June 23, 1963.

The words above are from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at Cobo Hall at the Great March on Detroit. The speech is regarded as the dress rehearsal for his famous I Have a Dream speech in Washington DC. Click to listen and read the text of the speech.

View Rudy’s photo background big and click for more of his graffiti photos.

More Martin Luther King on Michigan in Pictures.

I really encourage you to click through and listen. Dr. King was an incredible orator, and this was one of his very best speeches.

A Dream Begins in Detroit: Remembering Martin Luther King

John Swainson and Martin Luther King

John Swainson and Martin Luther King, photo courtesy Archives of Michigan

Today’s post is by Bob Garrett of Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan…

A Dream Begins in Detroit

In the above photo, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. appears with John Swainson, Michigan governor of 1961-1962. The photo is undated but was most likely taken on Sunday, June 23, 1963. On that date, Dr. King and former governor Swainson both participated in the Detroit “Walk to Freedom.”

The Detroit Walk to Freedom

Dr. King was then in the midst of a tour (begun that spring) from California to New York. His Detroit stop proved the tour’s biggest success. Police estimated the Freedom Walk crowd at 125,000. The day after the event, The Detroit Free Press labeled it “the largest civil rights demonstration in the nation’s history.” The walk began at Woodward and Adelaide and continued down Woodward to Cobo Hall. It lasted about an hour and a half, as marchers carried signs and sang songs (Songs included “We Shall Overcome” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”).

The Detroit Council for Human Rights organized the Walk. The Council’s director, Benjamin McFall, and its Chairman, Rev. Clarence L. Franklin, marched in a line with King and Swainson. That line also included Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh, United Auto Workers President Walter P. Reuther and State Auditor General Billie S. Farnum. (Then-current governor George Romney, a Mormon who avoided public appearances on Sundays, did not directly participate. He did, however, proclaim the day “Freedom March Day in Michigan.”)

Speech at Cobo Hall (“I Have a Dream…”)

At the walk’s conclusion, King gave a speech at Cobo Hall. According to the contemporary Detroit Free Press report, approximately twenty-five thousand people sat in attendance, with African Americans comprising about ninety-five percent of that total. They listened as King spoke of non-violence and an end to racial segregation. The June 24, 1963 Free Press report notes that King “ended his speech by telling of a dream.” According to the Free Press, King described his dream of whites and blacks “walking together hand in hand, free at last.”

In his book King: A Biography, David Levering Lewis states that King repeated the phrase “I have a dream” several times during that Cobo Hall speech. Lewis notes that when King addressed a crowd in Washington, D.C. two months later, he “kept the refrain from the Detroit speech: I have a dream.” (See Lewis’ King: A Biography, second edition, Urbana: University of Illinois, 1978, pg. 227).

Conclusion

King’s Washington speech of August 28, 1963 became famous as his “I have a dream speech.” It was a defining moment in the American civil rights movement. In one sense, however, the seeds of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream were planted in Michigan – in Detroit’s Cobo Hall.

Editor’s Note: You can click to read the full text of Dr. King’s speech in Detroit and see a photo from the walk on Michigan in Pictures. Interestingly enough, Gov. Swainson had a harder road than many to participate in the walk – he lost both his legs in a land mine explosion in Alsace-Lorraine in WW II and had to learn to walk again on artificial legs. More on the Wikipedia entry for Governor John Burley Swainson.

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service

MLK March 8

MLK March 8, photo by JSmith Photo

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I hope you have today off. I also hope that you get a little time to reflect on the continuing quest for equality for all, here in Michigan and all over the planet. Until we all have equal rights, it doesn’t seem to me like we can truly count ourselves successful.

If you do have the day off, MLK Day is also a National Day of Service. The State of Michigan explains:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.” To honor his words of inspiration and encouragement, the Michigan Community Service Commission asks you to mark January 21, 2013 on your calendar for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. The MLK Day of Service was initiated by Congress in 1994 and has been developed beyond a federal holiday honoring Dr. King into a national day of community service. In honor of this special day, thousands of service projects will be planned across the country grounded in Dr. King’s teachings of nonviolence and social justice.

File that page away for next year as you can seek small grants from the state for events that engage volunteers in community projects and head over to MLKday.gov to find projects in your community.

See Jeffrey’s photo background big and see more in his MLK CommUNITY March and Peace Vigil slideshow.

More MLK on Michigan in Pictures – be sure to check out the Great March to Freedom!