By Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur
(AllHipHop Opinion) Dr. King. Oh how I love thee, dear brother, but things have changed.
Nearly 50 years have passed since the day Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murderously assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The murder was one of many overt and covert acts of terror against Black people in the United States. Above all, Dr. King was probably the loudest statement to the Nation. His brutal slaying, along with the likes of Malcolm X, set the tone for where we are today as a nation…and as a people.
Spend any significant time with young people, it becomes apparent that that legacy of Dr. King is fading out of consciousness. If anything, he has become the guy that wrote the “I have a dream” speech to many. Clearly, many still know and fully comprehend the vast depths of Dr. King’s persona. However, today a child may say that Tupac is a hero or the measure of a man and if you go younger, they may even say somebody like 50 Cent.
“I must confess that that dream that I had that day has in many points turned into a nightmare.”
The reality is, we are not rearing or supporting new leaders as we continue to exalt the soldiers of the past. Even if you look at Rev. Al Sharpton, who is the heir apparent or the next wave? I realize that times have changed and that so has the face of leadership. I also comprehend that other factors such as the media, empathetic White people and POC have changed. I also know and see modern Civil Rights generals are out doing incredible, sacrificial life work for the people like Tamika Mallory, so I am NOT trying to be disrespectful at all. In fact, Black Lives Matter and other movements have proudly touted a more decentralized leadership model, a direct response to the decapitation of the Civil Rights Movement. And you already, know the United States has mandated that it will no longer permit another “Black Messiah” to come to prominence. Murder is not off the table and people know that consciously and subconsciously.
Clearly, many children and young adults are not raised in environments that home school about the vast contributions of Black Americans or reinforce the true mission of Dr. King. His vision was more than a multi-colored playground of bliss with kids of different racial backgrounds can share a sandbox. Never mind the contributions of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), The Black Panther Party, Marcus Garvey, Coretta Scott-King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver…and many more that people have no clue about. And those are just the warriors for equality, not the inventors, business pioneers, soldiers and others that paved the way for the country to be better. These idyllic figures are now replaced by less than desirable pseudo leaders and social media-driven inactive activists that are really just hype machines and profit centers for themselves.
I have been involved with a Delaware-based initiative called “Raising Kings,” which was born out of the MLK legacy to foster and rear the next generation of Kings. The movement presently manifests itself in a number of ways like guidance in business, chess, panel discussions, and overall leadership. This year, nearly 1,500 people registered for the main conference and more attended throughout the week-long, free event. Hundreds of men and women volunteered their time for one reason: to provide young men with a road map to success, keep them out of jail, realize their true potential, create leaders, pair them with mentors and quite a lot more.
”Now when we come to Washington, in this campaign, we are coming to get our check.”
Dr. King’s message wasn’t static and it continued to evolve. He was quite radical at the time of his death. He has began to protest the Vietnam war, all-but-retracted the “I Have A Dream” speech, the poor (Poor People’s Campaign) was about to start and he championed workers’ rights – all workers. He was angry and wanted Black people to get paid. Straight up. He was murdered after his stance turned into an unfiltered, raw and relentless crusade against the true devastation that social injustice has on ALL poor and marginalized people. If you don’t get it, get this: his message included White people. To put it blunt, Dr. King was a G.
Martin Luther Kings are being killed at a rapid rate in innumerable ways in the present day. Some are literally being murdered like the mysterious deaths of young activists in Ferguson. Others are being “killed” through the active promotion of illicit drugs in our culture and others via wholly legal drugs. Others are brain dead thanks to a variety of mindless, worthless activities. Some of our future leaders are destroyed by way of mental death and they walk around in living shells. And then there is the so-called Black-On-Black crime, even though we know all crimes happen along racial lines. There are so many ways to die these days.
There are also many ways to live. Raising Kings and so many living, breathing programs like it continue to do the necessary, emergency work deep within our communities. Wilmington, Delaware, where was born, is as problematic as any place in this nation, but there is another narrative that will not make headlines or trend on social media. That narrative includes many people like Chandra Pitts that resolutely do the work day in and day out. There are also kids that excel in every metric and measure imaginable and they too come out of this place. Run tell that.
In closing, these writings happen every day, all day. Oftentimes, the result is inaction and lip service. I say to you all: DO SOMETHING. DO ANYTHING. In all of my activist work, one of the most significant things I even did was “adopt” my cousin and take him under my wing. I have impacted his life in a most positive way – and he mine. I am an award-winning father, if I do say so myself. If each of us mentors a single child, the world would change within a generation.
It is Raising Kings (and Queens), not Raising Savages. If we are to change the world in the manner than Dr. King envisioned, we better get real and get honest quickly or the next 50 years are going to closely resemble a Dystopian movie we pretend time and time over won’t come true. King’s message is alive and just as relevant as 1960’s racism, because that very same beast thrives today. So, things haven’t changed so much. We just have to re-educate ourselves and allow him to re-introduce himself.
Chuck Creekmur is a public speaker and cultural critic. He’s been featured in VIBE, The Source, Complex, GIANT, National Public Radio (NPR), BET, TVOne, VH1, The E! Channel, MTV, USA Today, The New York Times, New York’s Hot 97 and numerous other outlets.