I have given lip service to the unprecedented saga of Sen. Barack Obama to become president of the United States, but not my heart-felt support. I wonder — is it because I have seen so much tragedy confront our big dreamers, especially African Americans, that like a mother to a son, I have to curb my enthusiasm?
This week, we commemorate not only the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, but also the mysterious death and possible assassination of the first Black Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. On April 3, 1996 — on the eve of the anniversary of Dr. King's murder some 28 years before— Brown's plane went down, along with 34 other people, on a mountaintop in Croatia.
Not only have these two great men been taken from us, but also the historic memory of why they died, and how their dreams have been twisted. What does all of this portend for the next Big Dreamer?
If Dr. King and Brown were only dreamers, they would have been alive today. Dr. King was one of the 20th century's greatest prophets, a man who had the skills to analyze, organize and activate. The King movement showed the victims and then the victimizers that forcing U.S. Blacks to live under a reign of terror, without dignity nor democracy, was a sin and a scandal.
King and the movement reordered traditional social relationships. No longer would Blacks, Browns, women, the handicapped or any other group accept their imposed status of a valueless nobody without a fight. And this vision of equality was translated into a worldview that challenges this nation's concept of a global superiority that permits it to invade other countries to steal resources and subjugate their people.
King, the activist, is not the King that the media serves up every holiday. That manufactured man is sleepwalking through history. He could be used in ads for mattresses: "Come buy the King mattress and you too could have a dream."
King in his prophetic mission did not always use somnambulistic language, but fiery challenges, not much different from the spirited sermons of Pastor Jeremiah Wright. King often quoted the Negro fight song that "before I be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free."
King's militant non-violent context resulted in his death. Unfortunately as we commemorate his death, the nagging questions surrounding it — as well as that of Brown — remain. For example:
• Why were the two Black firemen who watched over Dr. King when he was in Memphis transferred from their post the evening before the killing?
• Why has the sworn testimony of Lloyd Jowers been ignored? Jowers, who owned Jim's Grill across from the Lorraine Motel, said he was offered $100,000 from a Mafia businessman to set up the killing of King in which a patsy (James Earl Ray) would be provided. Jowers said after the shooting, he took the "smoking rifle," from the hit man, who was not Ray.
• Why has Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the former delegate from the District of Columbia, who was on the sub-committee of the King assassination panel, maintained: "The assassination was a conspiracy involving operatives in our intelligence agency, including the military, along with the Mafia and corporate interests."
In the case of Brown, two weeks before his plane crashed, he called me to his office to observe a new plan of action, which he felt would drastically change the plight of Africa, by launching a new program based on trade not aid.
Brown, too, was a big dreamer whose dreams would have benefited people of color globally. Few people these days mention him, nor is there any action to investigate why forensic pathologists stepped forward and put their careers on the line to say that Brown's skull had a hole that resembled a bullet wound. Yet, to my knowledge there has been no independent autopsy and neither are the media or civil rights groups clamoring for it.
No credible explanations were ever given as to why there were no cockpit recorders aboard the government aircraft, why an experienced pilot was replaced by someone with lesser experience and why the maintenance chief at the airport where Brown's plane crashed was found dead before U.S. investigators reached him, reportedly from a self-inflicted wound.
If Obama becomes the first Black president, this would mean a Black man would be commander-in-chief of the most lethal superpower on the globe. In addition, under his administration he could influence world trade, the global financial markets, the course of the Middle East and shape the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Even more important, Obama would possibly be privy to all or most of the United States' dirty secrets.
At least two other African Americans who stepped on or into the power stream of the United States were taken out. As the nation commemorates Dr. King, I can't help but worry if the rulers of a nation built on the foundation of White supremacy will once again see the dreamer coming.
And then would they slay him?
Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds, an ordained minister, is author of several books and an adjunct professor at the Howard University School of Divinity.