Remembering MLK Jr And His Ministry

martin luther king jr.

From the handling of Katrina to the Sean Bell shooting, it’s a safe bet to say that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he’d still be a busy man. Now, what if he were here and once again dipped into the part of his ministry that really scared the FBI and US government — his take on US foreign policy?

What do you think his perspective would be on the Iraq occupation? Personally speaking, I don’t think he’d acquiesce to it fitting neatly within the context of the War on Terror.

From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” a speech delivered on April 4th, 1967 at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City… with a few alterations:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Iraq. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Iraq.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Iraq, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Baghdad or to the insurgents. It is not addressed to Iran or to Syria.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Iraq. Neither is it an attempt to make the Sadr loyalists or the Sunni insurgents paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Baghdad and the insurgents, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.


Listen to the complete, original speech.

Shine On, Syd

Cobain influenced my attitude, Lennon influenced my understanding of love, but Barrett influenced how I perceived the world around me.


He was a revolutionary thinker and musician, an explorer of the mind, body and soul, forever changing our culture with his tripped out, yet beautiful fusion of jazzy, psychedelic guitar, lyrics and surround-sound amphitheater concerts.

Not once, but twice, Syd left the glow of the spotlight way too early for many of us.


Grind To The Back


So what do you do when the grind of the city commute smacks you in the face? You find a comfy spot in the back of The Jazz Gallery and let Steve Coleman’s workshop grab ahold of your soul.

Coleman wasn’t on my radar before tonight, but leave it to Jonathan to introduce me to a hot act in the Jazz scene. This guy is dope. He’s currently playing a 1-1-2-2-2-1-1 then a 1-1-2-2-2-1-1-1-1 then a 1-1-2-2-2-1-1-1-1… 1-1 beat, getting his drummer up on cue to the progressive, deterioration of the riff. Man, this is a workshop. Sue Mingus runs a “workshop” with the B and C players of the Big Band and Orchestra, occationally practicing new compositions. I love you Sue, but that’s not a workshop. That’s income.

Steve just invited audience members to join him on stage and work out the riff. Now with two women on the mic and the drummer carrying the beat, he gets abstract off the beat — like a launch point of a ramp built in progressive takes.

Two boards added, a half peeled away, two and a half stiched on, pause for a second, add three and gone!…

Now an audience member is on the piano, riffing to the progressive beat, Coleman standing back, checking out the take… and the first woman on the mic scatting… add Coleman…

Coleman’s not only brilliant, he has the patience and explanatory skills of a seasoned teacher.

Alright, now he’s dropping the improv down an octive and slowing down the tempo, mixing up the original riff into more paused flashes of laddders. Live blogging a jazz show… if I could visually describe what I’m hearing, well, imagine it to be something like this.


9/11: Surreal World


I grew up in the metropolitan area, but I’ve only been a proper NYC resident for the past three years. After going through last 9/11 and commuting past ground zero every day for the past six-months, I’ve come to realize that no matter where I live for the rest of my life, I’ll always consider myself a New Yorker.

The people of this city are fighters. They get knocked down, get right back up and offer the other cheek in defiance. I’ve dealt with a ton of adversity in my life and consider myself someone who doesn’t relent easily, but I’m more than humbled by the collective resolve of my neighbors here. There’s no way to express the grief that’s shared on a day like today, but this morning I had the opportunity to overhear a conversation between a group of firefighters on the train that I wanted to share.

As a group, the men seemed somber while beginning to talk about a fallen brother from a year ago, so I braced myself for the remainder of the conversation… yet for the entire seven stop ride, they quickly evolved to cracking on his horrible cooking around the ladder company back in the day. Getting off the train—on this day—they were all laughing from their gut.

New York.