Reflections on the Life and Legacy of The Revered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On January 17, 2016, Rev. Mansfield M. Kaseman spoke at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church on the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, below is the text from his speech.

In the exclamatory words of the ancient psalmist: How good it is when sisters and brothers dwell together in unity.    It is an honor and privilege to be following my brother, Imam Faizul Khan, in this sanctuary of love, celebrating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have been encouraged to offer a reflection of my experience with Brother Martin (as he was known by us at the time) that is intended to ground us in the history of the Civil Rights Movement and illustrate its relevance for us, who are continuing the struggle for basic civil rights today. 

I begin with a meeting in the upper room of the Blue Hill Christian Center in the heart of the black ghetto.  It was the night before MLK was going to address thousands on the Boston Commons.  Those of us in charge of his security met with Andy Young to go over the plan one last time. 

We were necessarily anxious, and at the same time feeling confident based on previous experience, and quite excited.

Then Andy told us that our request to have the Police pull back and let us be responsible for his safety – had been granted.  It was true that we had asked for it, and now we were in disbelief and shock. 

We had forgotten the adage – Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.   We got it and quickly felt more vulnerable than any other time in our lives.  We were now responsible for the safety and security of the most important person in the world, and the one upon whom the success of the Civil Rights Movement depended. 

Our planning became all the more serious, and we agreed to have an unbreakable line of men arm-in-arm surrounding the gazebo.  So no one could possibly get through.

Then Andy told us, the press was there less to record his words than his assassination, and we would need to let them through in that event.

I will never ever forget that moment.  Andy was articulating what we knew, but did not want to believe.  This was more than two years before his assassination.  Every one of those days and nights was fully lived believing unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. 

Once we are grasped by the power of such love and become part of the beloved community – where we know our humanity is inextricably tided to the humanity of everyone else – our lives are changed forever. 

It wasn’t long before my phone lines were tapped and my life was threatened to the point of being advised to get a gun.  Well, I was raised in a hunting family, and I had a double barrel 12-gage shotgun. 

But I didn’t need to think twice, because I could never kill anyone and holding a gun would make me a justifiable target.   I reference this in the light of where fear and hatred are taking us today. 

I recently sat next to a man in an adult seminar on gun violence, who seriously argued that churches, like schools, are soft targets (attracting assailants) because they are not yet armed. 

This is symptomatic of how far we have fallen as a human race and how much we need to be remembering and acting upon the wisdom and courage of our beloved Brother Martin Luther King, Jr.

I cannot think of a better antidote to the fear and hatred that is fueling gun violence, supporting dangerous anti-Muslim rhetoric, and refusing to grant refugee status to children fleeing violence in Latin America (instead of raiding their homes).

King spoke of the urgency of now!  What could be more important today than remembering that human compassion is more valuable than ideology; being governed by our dreams is far better than by our fears; being willing to die in the cause of love leads to a far richer, fuller and more productive life, and truly honoring the legacy of brother Martin Luther King, Jr. means committing ourselves to the proposition that Black Lives Matter, Latino lives deserve sanctuary, Muslim lives are as precious as our own, and the power of love is far greater than all forms of loveless power. 

I trust you will agree, this is more than enough to keep hope alive.  Amen. 

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