Kaid Benfield Archive


Images and a song for this day

Kaid Benfield

Posted January 16, 2012 at 1:30PM

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  MLK Jr Memorial, Washington, DC (by: Ron Cogswell, creative commons license)

I am old enough and was lucky enough to have heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in person.  It was not long before his death, at a mountain retreat facility owned by the Baptist church, not far from my North Carolina home.  My friend Simon and I went.  We were young, impressionable, and impressed.

I wish I remembered more of the details of the speech.  The most vivid memory is his answer to a question from an audience member who asked why, as a civil rights leader, he had begun to speak out against the Vietnam war.  His answer was clear as a bell:  “I am a minister.”

MLK Jr. Memorial & Washington Monument (by: Scott Ableman, creative commons license)We honor Dr. King today, and many days.  I try to have a post in his memory, one way or another, every year on his day.  Last year, I had a photo gallery of community memorials for him.  Not on his official day but, in October of 2010, I had the pleasure of publishing an article about Karja Hansen’s fine essay recounting her experience working on a revitalization plan in Montgomery, Alabama, along the route of Dr. King’s historic march from Selma to the state capitol.

Here in Washington, where the King Memorial was dedicated not long ago, Interior Secretary Salazar recently announced that the government would rightly correct a misleading quote that, out of context, made it sound like the civil rights leader was being self-laudatory, when he really was doing the opposite.  Good.  It is a powerful memorial and should reflect the dignity and humility of the man it honors.

As a country, and as a people, we are so much better for his leadership and service.

  from left: John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Douglas, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Forman and Ralph Abernathy (1965 photo by Steve Schapiro/Corbis, via History.com)

I’ll leave you with what is, in my opinion, the greatest of all civil rights songs.  Its Wikipedia entry says this:

“Upon hearing Bob Dylan's ‘Blowin' in the Wind’ in 1963, [legendary soul singer Sam] Cooke was greatly moved that such a poignant song about racism in America could come from someone who was not black. While on tour in May 1963, and after speaking with sit-in demonstrators in Durham, North Carolina following a concert, Cooke returned to his tour bus and wrote the first draft of what would become ‘A Change Is Gonna Come.’ The song also reflected much of Cooke's own inner turmoil. Known for his polished image and light-hearted songs such as ‘You Send Me’ and ‘Twistin' the Night Away,’ he had long felt the need to address the situation of discrimination and racism in America, especially the southern states. However, his image and fears of losing his largely white fan base prevented him from doing so . . .

“Though only a moderate success sales-wise, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement, and is widely considered Cooke's best composition. Over the years, the song has garnered significant praise and, in 2005, was voted number 12 by representatives of the music industry and press in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and voted number 3 in the webzine Pitchfork Media's The 200 Greatest Songs of the 60s. The song is also among three hundred songs deemed the most important ever recorded by National Public Radio (NPR) and was recently selected by the Library of Congress as one of twenty-five selected recordings to the National Recording Registry as of March 2007.”


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