Howard Moore Jr prepared these remarks for his address at The Skanner Foundation’s Martin Luther King Jr Breakfast at the Portland Hilton 16 Jan, 2016. The speech is not exactly as he delivered it at the breakfast, but we think you will enjoy this version.
Four days from now, all the progress achieved in race and social relations within the past 50 years will be at risk. A new presidential administration will take power in Washington, D.C.
The new President is a man of uncommon ability to excite interest and appeal for his brand. He accomplished a feat, no one without prior military or governmental experience before him ever did: win election to the office of President of the United States.
At the outset, many dismissed his announced pursuit of the Presidency as a stunt to promote his brand and attract attention to himself.
Yet, he beat a field of 17 within his own party, which included the well-funded son of a former President and a younger brother who recently served two terms as President, current United States Senators, former and current Governors, a brilliant and celebrated African American brain surgeon, and a successful woman CEO of two Fortune 500 companies.
He displayed boundless energy and showed he was a keen observer of people. He declared the presumptive front-runner, the relative of former Presidents, was a man of “low energy”, which stuck and defined him as long as he was in the campaign.
Not even a $150 million dollar campaign fund and the sight of his 90-year old and well-known mother drudging in the January snow in New Hampshire could not resurrect his campaign.
Similarly, he insulted and ridiculed others --- “lying Ted” “little Marco” “got your number Lindsay,” and the like and drove them out of the race.
Short on policy, he espoused grandiose, media-grabbing ideas. He would build a wall across our southern border with Mexico, which Mexico would pay for, to stop Mexico from sending us its bad people.
He vowed to round up and deport the undocumented, an estimated 11 million persons, including infants and children when they arrived here.
Innocence didn’t matter. They took jobs from deserving Americans, even if the jobs were ones Americans didn’t want, because they involved hard work, poor and dangerous living conditions, and low pay. So what? They must go!
To protect us from terrorists, he would bar Muslims from entering the country period.
The push back against such discriminatory idiocy led him to soften his position and just subject Muslims immigrants to “extreme vetting,” without explaining what he meant or exactly how he would improve upon the multiple tiers of vetting which already exist.
Radical white extremists were welcome in his campaign and at his rallies. Whatever would “Make America Great Again” or maybe white again he was for. He was the self-proclaimed “law and order candidate.”
He has a thing about women. He can’t resist grabbing their genitalia or kissing them. As he tells it: women welcome his boorish conduct, because he is so famous.
When he was exposed on national TV, heard bragging about assaulting women and touting his techniques, he claimed that was just “locker room talk.”
A puny and peculiar explanation. He was not in a locker room at the time he was caught on videotape. He was in a media trailer en route to tape a TV show or appearance.
Health care. No problem. Repeal Obamacare on day one for sure. The 20 million plus Americans with health care insurance for the first time, don’t worry. Just don’t get sick or injured until he figures out how to replace Obamacare.
If his head were in the right place, that wouldn’t be difficult. Replace Obamacare with single payer, a prepaid health care program which covers everyone from conception to the grave. Other nations do.
If anyone could do it in our country, he could. But he won’t. His head isn’t there. Wouldn’t that be huge, historic. Nazi Germany introduced universal health care in 1941, 76 years ago.
There was at least one thing he was for which got me and maybe you too. He would talk to the Russians and President Putin. Hear me out on this one. As I go along, this might more sense to you.
Over 60 million Americans from the southern Atlantic coast states and almost to the Pacific coast with bumps here and there in between thought he was the one and voted for him.
He didn’t win the popular vote, but he clobbered his opposition in the Electoral College, where it counted. He received 306 votes in the Electoral College, only 270 was needed out of the 538 total.
The Electoral College, one of three anti-democratic compromises in the original Constitution, is a relic of the past, designed to protect that “peculiar institution,” chattel slavery.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Do you feel Dr. King?
As you sit here this morning listening to me and reading along, you are certainly asking yourself will he please get around to talking about Dr. King.
Hold on. Let me set the stage and light the scene for this observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday. It occurs at a time like none before - - - the far right wing take over of all three branches of our national government, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, within 4 days.
Furthermore, there is a very strong likelihood within the next four years a decisive majority of the Justices of the Supreme Court will be young, arch conservatives with life tenure.
At the state level, already a majority of state governors are arch conservatives, with both houses of the legislature conservative as well as state judiciaries.
The so-called fourth branch, the press or media, is trending conservative. So robust, wide open reporting and discussion of issues and minority points of views which are critical will be the exception rather than customary.
Social media is an unproven source. The speed with which it can reach a mass audience on millions of mobile devices is unmatched in history, but social media is yet to establish whether it can sustain critical thought and deep analysis.
Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign and you know whose primary and general election campaign, and current transition into office point in different directions.
Indeed, this observance of Dr. King’s birthday comes at a time when our individual and collective liberty is imperiled in a way it has never been before as well as all life on this planet. A fascist takeover is real and imminent.
Dear friends take a moment to look at the image on the video screen. (A slide compares Donald Trump's proposed policies on Muslims to Hitler's on Jews)
The comparison between then and now is chilling and frightening. Don’t despair. The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. That’s Dr. King telling us to keep HOPE ALIVE. Become a bender.
Benders recognize distractions and face saving excuses. He won the election. There is not a single thread of evidence the Russians or any other foreigners voted in the recent presidential election or paid anyone else to vote for you know who.
Yet, we can’t turn on any of our devices without hearing someone who claims to know talking about the high confidence certain spy or intelligence agencies have the Russians meddled in our presidential election, and it can be traced to President Putin.
The Russians didn’t write those embarrassing emails that contradicted aspects of Secretary Clinton’s public stance on policy issues and other matters.
Secretary Clinton, her campaign chairman, and others in her campaign did. What is worst alleged hacking or a two-faced presidential candidate and her staff?
While all eyes are on Russia, it’s impossible to hear even a whisper about various means used to deny African Americans in red states and lately in Michigan the right to vote by any means necessary --- bogus voter ID laws, relocated voting precincts, reduced number of precincts, remote precincts, nonexistence or mal-functioning voting machines, at-large voting districts, and challenged ballots cast as provisional ballots but never counted.
Enough African Americans were denied the right to cast an effective ballot in the Detroit area of Michigan alone which could have changed the outcome. Michigan’s 16 electoral votes may have gone to Secretary Clinton rather than to him. Isn’t that something to talk about to investigate?
Why wasn’t it investigated? Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. That’s Dr. King’s message that investigations matter in more ways than we might think.
The African American vote is indeed a dangerous thing for African Americans. The old ways of intimidating African Americans voters have given way to softer but nevertheless unconstitutional means. They don’t do it that way anymore.
Secretary Clinton didn’t campaign in Wisconsin and lost its 10 electoral votes. Wisconsin had a population of roughly 5,778,708 as of July 1, 2016. Of that total, 6.6% is African American or around 34,000 plus, including people too young to vote.
In 2008, Obama carried Wisconsin by 381,000 votes or 56% of the total. In 2012, he carried Wisconsin by 53% of the vote.
He, you know who, won Wisconsin by less than 25,000, a margin of less than 8%, to become the first Republican Presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984.
Remember, Obama is biracial. That means he is Black and perceived as such. Why did an African American performed so much better in Wisconsin than a very white woman, known across the nation by her first name?
This is not an African American white woman thing, but a factor which should trigger your interest into why 300,000 voters in Wisconsin were not allowed to vote.
That’s a reason not to be distracted by efforts to whip up furor at the Russians and Putin. The Russians and Putin didn’t prevent 300,000 voters in Wisconsin from voting. Don’t you think that is what we should be clamoring about and our media investigating?
Hillary’s loss to you know who was a colossal disappointment, creating our present dangerous predicament.
Yet, don’t let your grief be a distraction. She ran an ineffective campaign. She didn’t read the hand writing on the wall from Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It revealed neoliberal policy appeals, effective in 1992 after 12 years of Reagan-Bush, were past their use by date.
The pain and anxiety the working class feels and experiences was the driver in this presidential election. Many in the working class were attracted to the authoritarian appeal of you know who.
Confident billionaire four times over and starred in a hit TV program 14 years and counting, who knew more than the generals, so he claimed, with buildings named for him across the country and around the world, world-class golf courses where the ruling class plays, and his own Jet.
He was the outsider and would spend his own money to Make America Great Again.
The other sector of the working class was attracted to Bernie Sanders.
With their help, he would create a Future to Believe In with free public education, a single-payer health system, and create jobs which paid a living wage.
Though he was an old man, a bit stooped-shoulder, partially bald and grey, a Jew from a very white state, Vermont, people “Felt the Bern”, supported his campaign with average contributions of $27, and turned out in huge numbers at his rallies, the media ignored.
Bernie fell behind in the early primaries in the Deep South. He couldn’t convince African Americans to break away from Hillary.
The effect dirty tricks Hillary’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee played on Bernie had is difficult to quantify, but it would be foolish to think they had no effect.
When Bernie lost the Democratic party’s nomination, the working class defaulted to you know who.
The energy, ideas, and excitement Bernie’s campaign brought to the Democratic Party was lost.
Black Lives Matter, Occupy, the youth, and liberal and progressive Democrats had no place to go. And, as should have been expected, turned out in greatly reduced numbers on election day.
Hillary was hit with a double whammy. During the primary election cycle, she carried states she had no chance of carrying in the general election and reduced turn out in states she may have otherwise won.
But, how do you explain or begin to understand the reported 51% of college educated white women who voted for you know who?
College exposed is probably a better cohort grouping. as Dr. King observed: The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and think critically. Intelligence plus character that is the goal of true education.
Those women blew their chance to crack the glass ceiling once and for all and protect their fundamental right to reproductive health and choice.
What were they thinking about? Were they thinking at all?
Dr. W. E. B. Dubois, the famous African American scholar, political activist and writer, and a founding member of the NAACP, gives us something to chew on with his observation:
United States will destroy ignorance, or ignorance will destroy the United States. Looks like ignorance is way ahead right now."
One thing we can’t do ever again: let a President go it alone as we did with President Obama. We sent an inexperienced one-speech wonder to Washington to right the ship of state President George W. Bush wrecked.
Obama did or tried to do everything he could to set us afloat and succeeded to some degree but not enough to lift the burdens the work class and racial and ethnic minorities had to bear.
We can’t blame all of Obama’s mistakes on him. Over staunch Republican opposition he bailed out the too big to fail in manufacturing, banking and finance, and insurance underwriting. True cost of that bail out, some estimate, is in the trillion of dollars.
He did next nothing to help the working class and racial and ethnic minorities. HARP didn’t help families threatened with foreclosures whose property exceeded $635,000 in market value, most homes in California and probably elsewhere too.
Sometimes, his administration was asleep at the switch. Most notably when the Supreme Court inadvertently, some would say, nationalized the preclearance provision of section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court in the Shelby Case only declared section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Section 4(b) limited the preclearance provision of section 5 to jurisdictions where less than 10% of eligible minority voters were registered to vote as of November 1, 1964.
Because preclearance led to significant increases in minority participation in electoral activities and voting in the affected jurisdictions, the Supreme Court held Section 4(b) had outgrown its usefulness and deprived jurisdictions subject to preclearance under the Voting Rights Act equal status with jurisdictions not subject to preclearance.
The Supreme Court did not declare the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Throughout the majority opinion the Supreme Court acknowledged discrimination still existed, and could be remedied in suits brought under section 2.
Such lawsuits are not as effective as preclearance. They are time-consuming and expensive. The challenged unlawful practice is rarely enjoined while the lawsuit is pending.
The Shelby Case did not outlaw preclearance, which prevents the unlawful practice from being implemented in the first place. The Shelby Case nationalized preclearance.
Had the Obama administration taken that position, the outcome of the most recent Presidential and Congressional elections may have been much different, even if the Obama administration was in litigation over its position. That’s the price we pay for not going to Washington with Obama.
Others more learned than I will certainly dispute my contention preclearance is enforceable after Shelby.
However, the importance and benefits derived from the full participation from all stakeholders in our democracy justify thinking out of the box to promote the broadest participation in electoral processes and voting.
Listen to what Dr. King wrote about the importance of voting. Then, ask yourself if the practices Dr. King discusses are recurring with the same or similar pernicious effect on our democracy.
"Because all men are one, the revolution for American freedom affected the entire world. In the same manner, freedom for the American Negro will affect the lives of all the people of the South for the better, just as the absence of Negro freedom has affected the lives of all Americans for the worse.
"This can be seen from the tragic consequences, the insecurities, that have emerged from the disfranchisement of Negroes in the South.
"The ghastly results have not been borne alone by the Negro. Poor white men, women and children, bearing the scars of ignorance, deprivation, and poverty, are evidence of the fact that harm to one is injury to all.
"They, too, are victims of the one-party system that has developed in the South, a system that denies free political choice and real political expression to millions of white voters. With a limited electorate, capable of being manipulated, reactionary men gained access to the highest legislative bodies of government.
"Today, because the Negro cannot vote, Congress is dominated by southern senators and representatives who are not elected in a fair nor in a legal manner.
"The strategic position of these men, as chairman of the most important committees in the House and Senate, enables them to filibuster and to bottle up legislation urgently needed for the economic and social welfare of all Americans, Negro and white.
Hence, it may clearly be seen that it is not the Negro alone who suffers but the nation as a whole."
(“Who Speaks for the South?,” printed in The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, at 92 & 93).
With minor variations, isn’t it happening all over again? and not limited to the South but across the nation with the Republican Party replacing the Democratic Party as the party of reaction and bigotry.
Furor is being whipped up across the nation by politicians, the media, and faceless others who occupy back channels to government for war with Russia, Iran, or North Korea and reckless and provocative talk about a nuclear first strike or nuclear exchange.
Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, an authority on the subject, warns:
“A nuclear exchange involving even a fraction of the weapons that the U.S. and Russia now have on alert status alone would result in nuclear winter, with the smoke from burning cities widely dispersing and blocking sunlight for over a decade. That means years without harvest on Earth.
"Just one year pretty much does the job of eliminating the human race.”
Dr. Ellsberg echoes Dr. King who years ago admonished:
“In a day when sputniks dash through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, nobody can win a war.
The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence”.
Our only hope to avoid war with Russia and the potential for a nuclear exchange is you know who and on this point I must sound his name, Donald J. Trump.
His motives and metrics may not be ours but the goal is the same.
Talk with the Russians and Putin, their leader. Cut deals with them that are mutually beneficial.
PEOTUS Trump take a reminder from Dr. King: A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
PEOTUS Trump, don’t give in to the masters of the Devil’s Chess Board and other powerful voices.
In doing so, you take on great risks, but that’s what leaders do. That’s what Dr. King did, and he did not have your wealth and power.
On the wealth side, Dr. King was a $6,000 year assistant pastor with four children and a stay at home wife to provide for.
On the power side, he only had love and an abiding commitment to nonviolence.
For that J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, viewed Dr. King as, “The most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.”
Hoover tapped Dr. King’s office and home phones and placed listening devices in places he visited or stayed over night.
He mailed letters to Dr. King with copies of tape recordings of Dr. King’s conversations and activities. Hoover implored Dr. King to end his own life.
Hoover, more than any other public official, unleashed hell hounds on Dr. King’s trail. Hoover was never called to task for his abuse of Dr. King and died in office.
One of those hell hounds finally caught up with Dr. King as he stood on the balcony of a Black owned motel in Memphis. Dr. King could have stayed elsewhere in a more secure facility, but he wanted to support local, Black owned businesses and deliberately chose the Lorraine Motel.
That hell hound tracked Dr. King from Atlanta to Memphis. Bought a deer hunting rifle in Alabama on his way to Memphis.
Stopped in the woods in Alabama. Fired his rifle one time to test it and the scope he had fitted onto the rifle.
Located a flop house in Memphis with an unobstructed view of the Lorraine Motel from more than the length of a football field away.
The flop house was across the street from a fire station where law enforcement officials assigned to protect Dr. King were deployed.
The first opportunity that hell hound had he aimed his rifle in the direction of Dr. King and fired one time.
Dr. King didn’t die from that rifle shot. It revealed for eternity Dr. King was so much more than a national civil rights leader. He was a prophet we couldn’t truly comprehend close up. We had to miss him to know him.
Dr. King was a difficult but precocious child. He was a choir boy who sang in the church choir at the premier in Atlanta of Gone with the Wind. He was a prize-winning, silver-tongued orator at an early age.
From his early teens, Dr. King abhorred racial segregation. For him, it was “both rationally inexplicable and morally unjustifiable.”
He graduated from college when he was 18 years of age.
Within the next 8 years of his graduation from college, Dr. King obtained a 3-year divinity degree, earned his Ph.D. 4 years later, returned to the South to pastor a small church in Montgomery, Alabama, led an epic civil rights movement to end racial segregation on public buses, and gained worldwide prominence.
While he was studying for his PhD and working on his doctoral dissertation, Dr. King married an extraordinary woman, two years his senior. She was well-educated, gorgeous, had a promising musical career of her own, and she was a progressive thinker.
Their love never waned. When her medical condition raised some impediments, their love for each other ascended to an even higher plane.
She honored Dr. King in his death with steadfastness of commitment and purpose unmatched in the memory of anyone currently alive, while raising four children as a single parent.
They now lie entombed next to each other for eternity in the King Center for Nonviolence and Social Action in Atlanta.
Their children became well-educated and productive adults. Each of them gained some measure of economic security when
Dr. King’s papers were acquired and lodged at Morehouse College for curation.
Small recompense for growing up without their father.
Death spared Dr. King seeing his brother, A. D., also a pastor, lose his life in a drowning accident in his own pool, even though he was a very competent swimmer.
Worse still, he didn’t have to suffer the agony of his beloved mother being shot to death as she sat in their family pew for Sunday services. . What forces would visit such episodes of life-ending events on a man and his blood relations whose only goal was to be a drum major for justice?
Dr. King was so wise. He saw the days ahead would be even more difficult than the ones gone pass. He knew poverty and racial discrimination were intractable. He knew robots and automation would hollow out employment opportunities, and thus there was need for guaranteed annual income.
He saw the contradictions in the capitalist system which made it inefficient and ineffective to meet human needs. The system forced the better off people to over consume to compensate for the under consumption of the masses.
Without a mass base of consumers, the system is always in danger of collapse. Poverty, racial, and social unrest would increase. The masses interface with the global capitalist or market system through nodes, better known as jobs or work.
When jobs are non-existence or greatly reduced, replacements must be created. Workers compensation, Social Security, and welfare are replacements.
To meet the problem of no employment or under-employment, Dr. King proposed: “We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other.”
A progressive idea whose implementation is inevitable.
Dr. King saw poverty was the enemy of community. Poverty had to be eliminated or mitigated. He committed himself to the elimination of poverty.
That was why he came to Memphis to support the “walking buzzards”, Black sanitation workers were called, to win them a living wage and change in their working conditions.
Memphis sanitation workers struck after two of them on the same day and in the same truck were ground to death. Dr. King was in Memphis in the biblical sense to walk and talk with the least of thee.
The time is always right to do what is right. It was Dr. King’s credo and frequent saying.
Dr. King suspended organization of his plans to march on Washington to end poverty to answer the call for his aid and support in Memphis. Dr. King’s planned march on Washington was conceived of as far more than a civil rights demonstration. It was to be an invasion of Congress for “only the federal Congress and administration can decide to use the billions of dollars we need for a real war on poverty.
We need , not a new law, but a massive, new national program.” (“The Trumpet of Conscience”, printed in Washington, supra, at 651).
Hundreds, if not thousands, from the Deep South, did march to Washington and camp there for some time, but without Dr. King fell short of its goal. That was Dr. King’s unfinished business and the nation’s as well.
Four days from now, to achieve Dr. King’s goal to create a national program to end poverty will be far more difficult. Congress is estranged from its duty to meet the needs of the poor and racial and ethnic minorities, Furthermore, the imperative of reversing the fascist take over will be front and center.
Transition from the slave nation we were into the one we claim to be and must become is filled with pitfalls, road blocks, and invariably delays. But we can and will become what we must become.
Ms. Fannie Lou Hammer would tell us: “You can pray until you faint. But unless you get up and try to do something God is not going put it in your lap.” Julian Bond would encourage us with his pointedly remind us: “Good things don’t come to those who wait.They come to those who agitate!”
In our feelings of grief, despair, and disappointment, we may have doubts about fighting back and carrying on. Dr. King certainly had his as did Nelson Mandela, Fannie Lou Hammer, and so many others who felt near the limits of their endurance.
Let me share a story Dr. King told about when he felt he reached his and sensed a compulsion to abandon the struggle, as many of us might feel right here and right now. Alone in his kitchen, late at night over a cup of coffee,
Dr. King tells us:
… I discovered then that religion had to become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed over that cup of coffee. I will never forget it …I prayed …’Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think the cause that we represent is right, But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering, I’m losing my courage. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage they will begin to get weak.’
And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth.’ … I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone, No never alone. Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. (Printed in American Prophets by Albert J. Raboteau, at 153 & 154)
Let us on this day commit ourselves to resume, both literally and figuratively, Dr. King’s march to end poverty and all forms of invidious discrimination against all races and ethnic groups, men and women, straight, gay, and trans, the disabled, and the aged regardless of their religion or the lack thereof continues when our feet begin to move.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY. DR. KING! But to tell the truth and we must. Reflecting on your life and work in these perilous times gives us the courage and stamina to carry on with your words of wisdom ever in mind: Human Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
The breakfast will be screened on Portland Community Media television in the coming weeks. Watch this space.