Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BIRTH OF A NATION - Reverend Brother Martin Luther King, Jr. and Haiti? No Way!

You are right - King had nada to do with Haiti.

But me, King's "autobiographer/compiler - ghost writer" - I have lots to do with Haiti.

"There is a great day ahead. The future is on its side. It's going now through the wilderness. But the Promised Land is ahead….There is no crown without a cross. "

The connection?

Since Jan. 12, 2010, I’ve kept reflecting that Haiti will rise again, and again…and it came to me that: Haiti is the FIRST world-nation to be reborn in the 21st century! And then, reverberations from those old tape recordings...the words, the sermon...it came to me, it came back to me: Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had spoken about Ghana.

IT ALL CAME BACK: Brother Martin, on April 7th, 1957, in a Sermon at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church had spoken of the “Birth of a New Nation,” and it was Ghana. And he spoke of the life of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's First President.

So I grabbed my book of King’s speeches, and I check on the ‘net, and I cribbed from a reproduction of his full speech: Birth of a New Nation. And so I could craft this, what King made me think about, the re-birth of Haiti, the first world-nation to be reborn in the 21st century.

As usual, Brother Martin’s words sing out to me. For 18 months, had I not listened to, and rewound, those audio tapes and the videos when I worked to compile material for The Autobiography, all this, coming out of Stanford at that time? Brother Martin. He wouldn’t let me alone, wouldn’t let me sleep. I read his love letters, post cards to Coretta, stuff dug out from a box in Coretta’s basement, versions of his dissertation, her edits, her typing. And I remembered his words at thee birth of a new nation, Ghana, and it made me think: Haiti.

Haiti now.

Brother Martin told of how for Kwame Nkruma, “…his nation was now out of Egypt and has crossed the Red Sea. Now it will confront its wilderness. Like any breaking loose from Egypt, there is a wilderness ahead. There is a problem of adjustment. Nkrumah realizes that. There is always this wilderness standing before you. For instance, it's a one-crop country, cocoa mainly; sixty percent of the cocoa of the world comes from the Gold Coast, or from Ghana. In order to make the economic system more stable it will be necessary to industrialize…”

Shades of Haiti!

“Cocoa is too fluctuating to base a whole economy on that, so there is the necessity of industrializing. Nkrumah said to me that one of the first things that he will do is to work toward industrialization. And also he plans to work toward the whole problem of increasing the cultural standards of the community. Still ninety percent of the people are illiterate, and it is necessary to lift the whole cultural standard of the community in order to make it possible to stand up in the free world.”

Ghana, 1957. 90% illiteracy. Haiti today? Numbers, numbers – 75%? Where do they get the numbers? Who’s counting and who are they counting?

Haiti today. And illiteracy is some staggering figure. And it is 2012.

Brother Martin continued his sermon, “Yes, there is a wilderness ahead, though it is my hope that even people from America will go to Africa as immigrants, right there to the Gold Coast, and lend their technical assistance, for there is great need and there are rich opportunities there. Right now is the time that American Negroes can lend their technical assistance to a growing new nation. I was very happy to see already people who have moved in and making good. The son of the late president of Bennett College, Dr. Jones, is there, who started an insurance company and making good, going to the top. A doctor from Brooklyn, New York had just come in that week and his wife is also a dentist, and they are living there now, going in there and working and the people love them. There will be hundreds and thousands of people, I'm sure, going over to make for the growth of this new nation. And Nkrumah made it very clear to me that he would welcome any persons coming there as immigrants to live there…”

Haiti today. Well, I don’t know as an influx of Americanos of whatever shade of brown or white or pink would immigrate to live. Probably they, we, would be welcomed. And then? Will Haiti become another Hawaii, with the majority becoming the minority…?

Probably not.

Brother Martin continued, “So never underestimate a people because it's small now. America was smaller than Ghana when it was born…”

And reminds us: “There is a great day ahead. The future is on its side. It's going now through the wilderness. But the Promised Land is ahead….

…freedom never comes easy. It comes through hard labor and it comes through toil; it comes through hours of despair and disappointment…

“And that's the way it goes. There is no crown without a cross. I wish we could get to Easter without going to Good Friday, but history tells us that we got to go by Good Friday before we can get to Easter. That's the long story of freedom, isn't it? Before you get to Canaan you've got a Red Sea to confront; you have a hardened heart of a pharaoh to confront; you have the prodigious hilltops of evil in the wilderness to confront. And even when you get up to the Promised Land you have giants in the land. The beautiful thing about it is that there are a few people who've been over in the land. They have spied enough to say, "Even though the giants are there we can possess the land, because we got the internal fiber to stand up amid anything that we have to face."

Haiti today. And how about that internal fiber? Indeed.

Now said Brother Martin, “That night when I saw that old flag coming down and the new flag coming up, I saw something else. That wasn't just an ephemeral, evanescent event appearing on the stage of history, but it was an event with eternal meaning, for it symbolizes something. That thing symbolized to me that an old order is passing away and a new order is coming into being. An old order of colonialism, of segregation, of discrimination is passing away now, and a new order of justice and freedom and goodwill is being born. That's what it said. Somehow the forces of justice stand on the side of the universe, so that you can't ultimately trample over God's children and profit by it.

Haiti today, 2010. I guess, sure, we still are talking about freedom, aren’t we? Freedom from want. Freedom to choose. So, Brother Martin’s words on the birth of that new nation are still true, eerily so, for Haiti today: “The road to freedom is a difficult, hard road. It always makes for temporary setbacks….”

Haiti today. The first nation to be re-born in the 21st century.

Brother Martin begins to conclude, invoking the prophet Isaiah, and images of mountains, of the earth laid low:
“Then I can hear Isaiah again, because it has profound meaning to me, that somehow "every valley shall be exalted, and every hill shall be made low; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."

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