Black Students at the University of Chicago Lab High School pen an open letter to school to address diversity and racism on campus.
By Dr. Kelvin “Kelly” Wright
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” a scripture reading from Romans 12:2.
Transformation is something the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior was in pursuit of. He was seeking to fulfill his God given dream to help lead all people to the promise land of true brotherhood. On this national holiday we observe the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., a drum major who followed the drumbeat of a different drum. He did not follow the world’s cadence of anger, discord and violence but chose to operate in the unforced rhythm of God’s grace to take a stand against racism, militarism, injustice and poverty. He sought to serve others in his quest to achieve equality in civil and economic rights for Black Americans, along with a demand for criminal justice reforms.
In 1963, I remember as a child sitting at home in Hagerstown, Maryland with my mother and grandmother in our living room watching a network news report on the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. The report showed Dr. King delivering what would become a speech literally heard around the world and echoed throughout history, “I Have A Dream.”
It was a dream that set into motion the transformation of race relations in America. Dr. King’s leadership in the non-violent struggle for civil rights earned him the distinction of being called a “drum major for justice, a drum major for peace.”
But to his four children, he was simply known as “daddy.”
Dr. King was mindful of his children when he delivered his famous address, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Dr. King’s youngest child, Bernice King, has followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming an ordained minister and continues his legacy. She believes that her dad’s dream for his children to be judged by the content of their character has, in many ways, become a reality. She says, “new generations of people have benefited greatly because of the dream but we still have more work to do.”
King recently talked to me about her reflections of her father. Her dad’s incredible contribution to the world, she explained, is a result of his extraordinary faith in God. As I talked with her, she told me that everything her daddy did, came out of his personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
King recalls how her dad’s deep faith helped him overcome the pressures from leading the non-violent struggle for Civil Rights, particularly when the burden became too heavy to bear: “I remember in the beginning when he was about to give up because he got a call that threatened to blow up his home where my mom and my sister were. He was in the kitchen and just before midnight, he told God; I’m at the end of my powers. I’m just down here trying to do right. Why do I have to deal with all of these evil and wicked people? Why are people so mean-spirited? Why can’t people understand goodness and the good works we’re trying to do? Why is there so much hate?”
King continued that her dad had grown weary and felt he could not continue; he was at the end of his rope. She explained to me; “It was at that point that he said he heard the voice of God say; “Martin Luther King, Junior! Stand up for justice! Stand up for righteousness! And I will be with you until the end.”
Essentially, Dr. King went through what I refer to as a “Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane” moment. King was facing the very real threat of death for seeking to do what was right in the eyes of God. He knew in the eyes of man, if he would continue to carry his cross of love for humanity, the very depravity of mankind could crush him and his family. But from that encounter with God in his kitchen, his extraordinary faith compelled him to keep moving forward with his noble cause, even in the face of death.
Scripture tells us when we encounter adversity as King surely did, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore, we do not lose heart.”
Of her daddy’s accomplishments, Bernice humbly says, “It’s emotional to know that you’re connected to a man who had such a great impact on this world. It’s a humbling experience to know that he’s my dad.”
Dr. King, a dedicated Baptist minister with brilliant oratory skills, the academic prowess of a scholar, and the wisdom of a prophet, faithfully and courageously challenged America to embrace his dream of a better, stronger and united America. I asked Bernice how we have gone astray in fulfilling that dream.
“It goes back to economics and spirituality. Those two issues I think are very critical. And the whole fervor of materialism in our society and self-centeredness has taken us away. And so, instead of people focusing on God first and everything else next, we’ve reversed those priorities. So, our values and our priorities are off.”
She adds; “Daddy talked about this in 1967. He forewarned that if we’re not careful, we will become a “thing” oriented society and not “people centered” and all of these different crises are going to emerge. And that’s what’s been happening.”
With that, King’s daughter acknowledged how the world has shattered her daddy’s dream. She points out how we are still confronted with poverty, crippling illiteracy, poor education, and senseless violence. “You think about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut. I mean that should have jolted us like nothing else. We saw 6-year-olds losing their life so senselessly. I’m thinking about Chicago and all of those young people who are killing each other. What has happened to a society that has turned away from that kind of situation and not realize this speaks to who “we are.” as a nation and a cancer in our society. The situation with Trayvon Martin, everyday there are several Trayvon Martins; not in the black community but in the Hispanic/Latino communities and other communities.
Were he living today, Dr. King would listen to politicians, civil rights and faith leaders agitate bloviate, instigate and aggravate. Then he would seek to elevate, motivate and demonstrate God’s view for healing the painful wounds of the past and bridge the deep divide with the bonds of reconciliation.
In 1963, as he sat in a Birmingham jail, he wrote about becoming an extremist to deal with the extreme issues of hate and division.
He advised Americans to become more like Jesus as an extremist in love — “your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them who despitefully use you.”
His daughter says, “One of the most important traits in unconditional love is the capacity to forgive. It’s very easy to become bitter. It’s very easy to become angry. It’s very easy to want to take revenge or retaliation. We must have the capacity to have the mentality that says by destroying them; part of me is being destroyed because they’re part of my humanity.
“My dad lost his life but look at what the world has gained. Even though he didn’t make it to see that Promised Land he talked about and everybody hasn’t made it to this Promised Land he talked about but there are people that are benefiting from the life and ultimate sacrifice that he made.”
Reflecting on King’s legacy, we would serve ourselves well if we could follow his example of spiritual depth, courageous leadership and unselfish service. Like King, we must seek transformation by the renewing of our minds. Let us remember that Dr. King did not conform to the culture of hate but followed the pattern of love. He said; “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Let’s continue the King dream and legacy by boldly and courageously spreading God’s love, freedom and peace.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Washington, DC — On February 10, 2020, the Black News Channel (BNC) will become the nation’s only 24-hour news and information television network focused primarily on African Americans. The historic launch of the BNC will fulfill the business dream and vision of J.C. Watts, Jr., a nationally known entrepreneur and former U.S. Congressman, Representing Oklahoma’s Fourth District.
Programming will include special news features on topics that most affect the quality of life of communities of color – like Sickle Cell Disease and hypertension – that generally aren’t given much attention to by other news outlets. The BNC has also established a news-content alliance with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), representing the Black Press of America, via 225 African American-owned newspapers and digital companies throughout the United States.
The Tallahassee, Florida-based BNC counts as the brainchild of J.C. Watts, Jr., who is described by Tommy Ross, the network’s director of communications, as “a father, husband, grandfather, business owner, entrepreneur, author, elected official at the state and federal level, a pastor, and a rancher who grew up in a small town in Oklahoma.”
In reality, Watts appears as much more, and those who know him, understand that he’s a Republican conservative whose accomplishments crosses party lines. Watts is also a former All-Star quarterback who played college football in Oklahoma and pro ball in Canada.
His congressional accomplishments and living legacy are noteworthy, including:
“We’ve done a lot as African Americans,” Watts stated before referencing a recent statue unveiling that took place in Richmond, Virginia, earlier this month. “Rumors of War,” a statue by artist Kehinde Wiley, was unveiled on December 10 during a ceremony at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The figure depicts an African American man dressed in contemporary clothing riding a horse, echoing the equestrian sculptures of Confederate soldiers.
“Rumors of War” was reportedly Wiley’s response to the Confederate monuments that pepper the U.S. and the South in particular. The new memorial arrived amid an ongoing debate across the country about what do with Confederate imagery. “This was history,” Watts said of the statue. “Because, if we talk about the slave owner, how can we ignore the slave? African Americans contributed mightily to the United States, and you don’t see enough statues of African Americans.”
“Think about what Rosa Parks contributed, Harriet Tubman’s sacrifice, Martin Luther King’s sacrifice, and Frederick Douglass. Their contribution was to raise the conscious level of America to say that you know, we are all human and, and all created by the same God,” Watts emphasized.
He said the BNC would highlight the contributions of African Americans. And, to successfully accomplish that mission, Watts said it was essential to partner with NNPA.
“NNPA already has people in the trenches that report on African American life, whether it’s Chicago, Atlanta, Birmingham, Detroit or Oklahoma City, they report on African American life every day,” Watts stated. “I don’t know if I can put into words how important that partnership will be, and that’s just in terms of content. When I was in politics, we used a strategy where you’ve got people knocking on doors and leaving literature, and that’s your ground game,” Watts continued.
“But you also need an air attack to augment that ground game, so with NNPA being on the ground and giving us information and data, and us being able to launch an air attack, it’s critical,” he stated.
Watts believes that a significant component of the BNC is providing knowledge to a community that’s starved for information.
“Our viewers will be able to find out more about Sickle Cell and Black men and Black women’s health,” Watts stated. “They will also be reminded that Black history isn’t just about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, which was extremely important, but it isn’t the only part of our history. We are going to take a deeper dive and have a deeper relationship with our community.”
Watts’s background as a Republican and a conservative has often been a topic of both his supporters and detractors. However, Watts refuses to allow stereotypes and presumptions to define him.
“Conservative means many things to different people. To me, it means living the way my grandmama taught me,” Watts stated. “She taught me to treat people the way that I want to be treated. In a Black home, you rarely saw people leaving their lights on at night because grandmama taught that it was a waste of electricity. If the lights were on, you knew that something pretty serious was happening.”
Watts continued: “The bottom line about being a conservative is that you treat people with respect, and you don’t believe in wasting things. That’s important. And, another primary place that I get my conservative values is the Bible. I was thought that I shouldn’t just be concerned about Oklahoma University, my alma mater, but I should also be concerned about Morehouse. That’s why I sponsored anti-poverty legislation because sometimes you have to put extra resources into different communities to give them the infrastructure to attract industry and jobs.”
“My biblical principles drove me much more than the Republican party. Look, the National Football League recognized that having successful teams in every market would benefit everyone, and that’s why the team with the worst record gets the top pick in the draft. They know that if the Cincinnati Bengals perform better, everybody wins because you would have more advertising and a better television contract for everyone. So, I feel the same way about underserved communities. If we can help them to be stronger and create more opportunities within those communities, then that’s good for all communities.”
Conservative values also sparked Watts’s desire for criminal justice reform, he stated.
“When I talk about conservative principles, you know you don’t waste money,” Watts stated. “So, why should we spend $28,000 a year to incarcerate someone for a low-level, nonviolent drug offense?
“You can spend significantly less on community service. And, when you look at the facts, the sentencing disparities were big. People on Wall Street were using powder cocaine just like people on Main Street, or people in poor communities, but the sentencing disparities were off the charts. I voted my conscience when on this when I was in Congress,” Watts stated.
With the launch of the BNC just only weeks away, Watts hopes that viewers will get a similar feeling to what he experienced after recently taking his daughter to dinner to celebrate her birthday.
“My daughter recommended the restaurant, I’d never been there before,” Watts stated, “After dinner, she asked me what did I think of the restaurant? I said, ‘I’d come back to tomorrow. And I think that’s our mission with the BNC, not just to grab the imagination and the attention of the nation, but especially our demographic and to have them come back. I think it’ll be a mission accomplished.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr, a progressive Democrat and President and CEO of the NNPA without any reservations asserted, “The launch of the Black News Channel (BNC) is very timely at the beginning of 2020. This is good news for all in Black America. The BNC transcends the current partisan divide in the United States. The interests of African Americans, as well as all other people of color and all of humanity who cry out for freedom, justice and equality will be more effectively addressed as direct result of the daily 24/7 diverse and news-packed broadcasts of BNC in the U.S. and throughout the world.”
This content was originally published here.