Thank you very much amnesia by mikesanye


									                      Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
                    Sixth Annual Awards Banquet
          “Living the Dream in the 90’s: Put Love In Action”
                      Monday, January 19, 1998
                       Jackson State University
                         Jackson, Mississippi
                               6:30 p.m.

                                   Guest Speaker
                                    Scott R. Ealy

Thank you very much.

I am very honored and very blessed tonight to be in Mississippi, land of many of my
heroes and teachers in life. And it is a wonderful thing to be in Jackson, Mississippi, for
the Dr. King Holiday.

My family and I have been here in Jackson nearly every year this decade for the Dr. King
Holiday. We wouldn’t have it any other way because there’s no better place to be in the
world on this holiday - because of what Councilman [Kenneth] Stokes has done. And so
many others. [Applause].

I come here tonight, not as a leader of any kind.

Anything that I have done during the years that I lived in Jackson - or afterward, because
of what I have learned here - is only because I am a follower. I am someone who has
heard the message. And I consider myself only a servant - of the message of Dr. King.

I also am a servant to the memory of [slain civil rights leader] Medgar Evers, one of the
greatest Americans who ever lived. And anyone who cannot honor Medgar Evers
certainly has something wrong with his heart and with his mind. [Applause].

I also am a servant of the memory of the late Dr. Aaron Henry [Mississippi NAACP
Chairman, 1960-1994], whom I got to know personally. And that was a great experience
for me. It was a wonderful honor.

We had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Henry, and my son, Michael, and I had - I know this
sounds unusual - but we had the pleasure of attending the funeral of Dr. Henry. Some of
you know - many of you know - the difference between a good funeral and a bad funeral.

Of course, a bad funeral is when - you know, what can we say, when someone really
maybe didn’t live life the way he should have.

On the other hand, a good funeral is when someone accomplished so much that you just
don’t have enough time in the service to deal with everything that he did. And that very
much describes the funeral of the late Dr. Aaron Henry. We attended his funeral in
Clarksdale, and later the burial here in Jackson - a blessing and an honor.

I also come to you today as an admirer of people like the late Sam Bailey, who lived and
walked here in Jackson. And whom I met only once, at a banquet similar to this event.

I didn’t know what to say to him when I met Mr. Bailey. I had read about him. I had
heard about him. And I had reviewed the [U.S. Supreme Court] case of Bailey versus
Patterson. I knew that Mr. Bailey was the plaintiff in that case - an equal access civil
rights suit, brought so that Mr. Bailey and his children, and your children, and the
children of all of us, would have equal access to public facilities in Jackson, and

So when I met Mr. Bailey, I didn’t know quite what to say. I had a camera with me, and
I asked if I could take his picture.

I told Mr. Bailey, “Mr. Bailey, I am very honored to meet you, sir.” And he smiled. And
it was a sweet smile. And I captured it on a photograph, and, in fact, it wasn’t the best
photograph in the world because I was nervous. And I didn’t quite get all of Mr. Bailey
on the picture. But, I tell you what, I have the picture, and I will always treasure the
picture anyway because it was HIM.

Because I know what a man like Mr. Bailey stood for, and how courageously he stood.

When I heard about Mr. Bailey’s death around Thanksgiving Day in 1995, I cried my
eyes out. Because first of all, I knew that I had been blessed for even having had the
opportunity to meet Sam Bailey. And to know what he did here.

But I also wondered how many other white children ever had gone up to Mr. Bailey and
told him that they were honored to meet him.

Or, how many African-American children had gone up to Mr. Bailey and told him how
honored they were to meet him. Not enough.

Do we pay proper respect to our elders? No. People of all races. The answer is no.

And perhaps that’s part of the problem with a certain population that is not here tonight.

I think another part of it that they are very embarrassed about some of things that have
happened here in Mississippi.

But, amnesia is no solution. THIS was said recently by Bishop Desmond Tutu in South
Africa, a country that may lead the world one day in race relations. “Amnesia is no
answer. Let’s talk about things.”

“Let’s honor the memory of the terrible things that happened and the great things that
took place in spite of that.”

And THAT is my vision for Mississippi. Especially when I look out over so many of the
great human beings who are here tonight.

Mr. Mayor [Harvey Johnson], I am so pleased to be next to you, knowing that you are our
first African-American leader of Jackson, Mississippi. I have heard excellent things
about you, and I know that you are a great man who will lead this city to many great
accomplishments. [Applause]. I was very pleased to read about your election.

Mayor [Unita] Blackwell, I am so honored just to be on the same stage with you. It’s
unbelievable to read about people in history books, and then here I am standing next to
you. I can’t hardly believe it.

Bruce Payne, I want to thank Mr. [Charles] Tisdale for letting me do a report [in the
Jackson Advocate] on you so that I could learn all about your distinguished and, in fact,
legendary radio broadcasting career. And congratulations on your recent honors, you
deserve every one of them. [Applause].


For many today, Dr. King is viewed wrongly. For, by them, Dr. King is viewed solely as
a dreamer: “I have a dream . . .”

But, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t ALL of it, certainly. Just a part of it.

As Charles Evers pointed out recently in his book “Have No Fear,” people like Dr. King
and Medgar Evers - and others - they were more than dreamers. They were workers.

They spoke.

But, they not only spoke. They marched.

And they not only marched. They made the telephone calls to organize, promote, and
help support the march.

They not only made the telephone calls. They planned. They negotiated.

They planned campaigns. Occasionally, they dealt - usually quietly - with organizational
personality clashes.

They did the behind-the-scenes work.

They read the papers. They kept up. They stayed informed.

They were actors. No, not actors in the Hollywood sense. But they were actors in the
fact that they DID THINGS.

And they also were not too big to do the little things - to ensure that THINGS . . GOT . .
DONE! Sometimes, right here in Jackson.

And Dr. King also made this point - about significant involvements.

“Crime rates go down in almost every community where you have demonstrations.” Dr.
King said that. And he proved it.

And this was the case, because, quoting Dr. King: “People find a way in those times [of
involvement] to slough off their self-hatred and self-interests, and they have a channel to
express their longings.”

Said Dr. King: “We need to bring the coalition of conscience together, and that will work
many solutions.”

Involvement and work.

Mr. Tisdale and I had a conversation while watching the beautiful Dr. King Parade
[here]. We talked about some of our heroes.

And we both arrived at, pretty much, the same conclusion.

It went somewhat along the lines of this quote – and this applies, I think, very well to the
life of Medgar Evers: “He never wondered what was right or wrong. He just knew.”

“He never WONDERED what was right or wrong. He just KNEW.”

He didn’t take unnecessary time looking in the mirror and wondering what people might

Now, how much time do we waste looking inward - looking in the mirror, looking at
ourselves - when we could be doing what I see Councilman Stokes doing all the time -
looking at others. It’s about looking at, and caring for, others. Not ourselves. But,

My wife, Joy, and I had a conversation coming back this weekend from looking at some
of the Medgar Evers [related] sites, including the statue, and we were talking about
Councilman Stokes and our admiration for him.

Joy said, “I think I know why so many people admire Kenneth Stokes so much.”

She said, “Well, just watch him. He’s always doing something for someone else.”

And . . . that’s a highly accurate synopsis of the life of Councilman Stokes. In fact, it’s
the truth, and it’s all you need to know. [Applause].

Speaking of admiration, Dr. King often said - and this I have, hanging up on my wall at
home --- This statement reminds me of someone I know. [Laughter, as the speaker
points repeatedly to Charles Tisdale, Publisher of the Jackson Advocate]:

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.”

Now, why does that remind me of you? [Laughter, applause].

Some people have the courage. Some people have the courage to raise tension, when
they believe that tensions need to be raised.

Mr. Tisdale, congratulations on the recent 60th Anniversary of the Jackson Advocate.

Thank you for the opportunities that you gave to me - through my work - to meet people
like Bruce Payne, [attorney] Alvin Chambliss, and so many others whom I see in this

And to meet with so many different people. Thank you for everything, Mr. Tisdale. You
have given me quite an education. And you have done that for so many people, as well.

You know, Dr. King said: “People engage in despair when nothing is going on.”

I heard a guy on the radio this morning as I drove back in to Jackson from New Orleans,
where I had been visiting my sister yesterday.

The guy was a talk show host on a station that I really don’t appreciate very much. He
was speaking and inviting listeners to “call in.” And, fighting off some dead air, he said,
“Well, let’s look at what happened this weekend.”

“Well,” he said, “I really can’t think of anything that happened this weekend.”

And this guy lives in Jackson? Well, sorry to say, he at least “works” on the radio in

There he was, on 1180 WJNT-AM, asking people to call in. And his listeners called in
and said absolutely silly things. And no one talked about the Dr. King Parade.

Nothing interesting happened this weekend in Jackson? WHERE DO YOU LIVE???

Pity. A cause for sorrow. Pity, pity, pity. [Applause].

Dr. King said, “People engage in despair when nothing is going on.”

Well, in the mind of this particular radio announcer, apparently there was nothing going
on. There was much despair there, and dead air. [Laughter].

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.”

Dr. Aaron Henry. In the early 1960s. He wanted the presence of justice at a certain
television station [WLBT-TV, Jackson MS].

The television station would not give him air time. Why? Because he was an African-
American man.

The station would do funny things. And this is all part of an official legal record. Funny
things. For example, Thurgood Marshall, appearing on NBC television’s “Today Show,”
was cut off the air because he was speaking about Brown versus Board of Education.

On this local channel, what they showed was a sign that said: “Sorry. Cable trouble.”
[Laughter]. They didn’t want Thurgood Marshall on the air [in Jackson].

Dr. Henry, and the United Church of Christ, challenged the broadcast rights of that

That station became the first outlet in the United States of America to lose its license
because of racial discrimination. And - How’s this for justice? - Dr. Henry later became
part of the ownership of that station, WLBT, the way that I hear it. [Applause].

So, there was a little bit of tension there, but it eased, and it was the presence of justice.


Now, Dr. King, I think, would have loved the concept of what we today call the internet.

The internet is simply an amazing tool. People all over the world are linked together - by
computer - over the internet, the worldwide web.

You can learn many things, and you can communicate back-and-forth with people from
all over the world using the internet. It is absolutely amazing. For example, using the
internet, I have communicated with [Mississippi Supreme Court] Judge [Fred] Banks -
and a few other people from Mississippi. I have gone into the web sites of several

Mississippi agencies and organizations, including the site hosted by Jackson State
University. In fact, using the internet is how I first heard of the death of Dr. Henry.

Dr. King would have loved the internet because, I believe -- and I think that you know
this is true - because Dr. King knew, like few others, that all people are “linked.” And
that’s what the internet is all about. People linked together. And ideas linked together.
And it all relates, somehow. The good, the bad, and the indifferent. It’s all linked.

If you visit the “Tribute to Medgar Evers” web site, [which I host] you will see the
beautiful Medgar Evers Statue, which was a product of Mirtes Gregory and her great
work here in Jackson. You’ll find pictures of this statue, which people all over the world
can see.

You’ll also find various links. When it mentions that Medgar Evers was a graduate of
Alcorn State University, there is a link to Alcorn’s web site.

When it mentions, as it does, all of the activities in Jackson during the Dr. King Holiday
Weekend, it mentions Jackson State University’s excellent web site. And by linking
there, people all over the world - JSU graduates and others - can find out what’s going on
at Jackson State.

Now, again, Dr. King knew that all people are linked, and also that all ideas - in one way
or another - are linked.

One of the things he said was that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Conversely, Dr. King understood that, “Good works anywhere send out a tiny ripple of

Now, when African-American people - and all people throughout the nation - can see
what is going on in Jackson, Mississippi, this weekend and in the future. With
Councilman Stokes and others. When people throughout the nation hear of the good
works of Congressman Bennie Thompson, it sends to them a message - a ripple of hope.

And that is the good the internet can bring.

Of course, there also are the hate groups out there on the internet, and that is the bad.

Another person who foresaw the effects of the communications industry was Medgar
Evers, and I am going to quote from a speech of his in 1963. And these are the words of
Medgar Evers:

“Tonight, the Negro plantation worker in the Delta knows from his radio and television
what happened today all over the world. He knows what black people are doing, and he
knows what white people are doing.”

“He can see on the six o’clock news the picture of a three o’clock dog bit by a police dog.
He knows that Willie Mays, a Birmingham Negro, is the highest paid baseball player in
the nation. He also knows that Leontyne Price from Laurel [Mississippi] is one of the
greatest opera singers who ever lived.”

“He knows about the free nations in Africa and knows that a Congo native can become a
locomotive engineer. But in Jackson, he cannot drive a garbage truck.”

“He sees black prime ministers and ambassadors, financiers, and technicians. Then, he
looks around his home community, and what does he see - in this “friendly, prosperous
city with an exciting future,” according to our Mayor?”

What Medgar Evers was saying in his speech, shortly before he died, was, “You’re now
seeing - all over the world - what is going on [in Jackson]. [And] this cannot continue.”

It’s also like this: People who are Christian know what the final score is. And when bad
things happen, this can’t continue. And it won’t continue.

And when you look at things now in your community that aren’t as they should be, you
who are Christians and you who believe in God know that this isn’t how it’s always
going to be. And things are going to get better and improve. And justice will be done.
Because you know what the final score is. It’s just a matter of how we get there. And
who acts to bring us there.

A young lady from Alabama wrote to me not too long ago, and she said, “Thank you for
the Medgar Evers tribute on the internet because - and these are her words - because we
don’t have many Black role models today.”

I wrote her back.

I thanked her for her letter. But, in one part of my response, I said something like,
“Young lady, you’re wrong. About one thing, you are wrong.”

There ARE Black role models, and they can be found all over. They’re not being
reported upon sometimes, but they are there. [Applause]. They are there.

And that is why we later created something on the “Tribute to Medgar Evers” site that is
called the “Human Being Of The Week!” And among the human beings of the week has
been Congressman Thompson for the great works that he has done.

The internet also brings accountability. Because all of this information is there, and you
can see who is doing what.

One example: When I accessed the Congressional Record, and looked at what Bennie
Thompson was doing - as compared to some of the other folks from Mississippi - I found
that different topics were covered. Imagine that! [Laughter].

I was very proud of Congressman Thompson, who despite my living in Illinois is MY
Congressman, for sponsoring the re-naming of the Medgar Evers memorial post office
that we now see in Jackson, honoring one of the greatest Americans who ever lived

I was proud of Congressman Thompson was paying tribute [on the floor of the U.S.
House of Representatives] to Myrlie Evers-Williams when she took over the reigns of the
National Board of Directors for the NAACP. I was proud of Congressman Thompson for
the beautiful tribute he paid in Washington to Aaron Henry, upon Dr. Henry’s death, for
his many accomplishments.

The internet, and other activities, and the news media, will bring accountability.

The better and stronger our communications systems become, the more accountable
everyone is going to have to be. And we are moving in the right direction.

Speaking of communications moving in the right direction, Other Cain of radio station
WOAD is with us tonight. This morning, the prayer breakfast at Amazing was broadcast
live on WOAD. [Applause]. Congratulations. THAT is broadcasting in the public
interest, and that is how it should be.

I know it’s getting late. So, I will begin to close with this:

About someone from another era and from a different part of the country. Someone from
South-Central . . . Illinois.

Gotcha! Not South-Central Los Angeles, but South-Central Illinois. That’s my area.
That’s where I live.

First, though, a thought to keep in mind – and this is Dr. King speaking:

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Let’s hear that again: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the
final word.” Dr. King.

Now, in 1923, - decades before we heard of Dr. King - the Ku Klux Klan made a
concentrated effort - in my home area - to promote their organization there.

But there was a Catholic priest in South-Central Illinois. His name was Father George

Father George Nell would go to these Ku Klux Klan “promotion meetings.” And what he
would do was --- These meetings usually were held in an open field. And Father Nell
would take up a position kind of close to the speaker, so that the person speaking could
see his white collar as a Roman Catholic priest.

The Klansman would say his trash, and then the Klan would ask if anyone else wanted to
say anything - to promote their cause.

Father George Nell would raise his hand. He would ask to be recognized.

He would approach the podium, and he would speak to what the Klan had said.

Then, he would point to the community work engaged in by people in the area. He
would point to the number of war veterans who fought against fascism, and he would end
with a plea for Christian brotherly love and cooperation in making the community a
better place in which to love.

And the crowd would applaud Father George Nell enthusiastically. And the good people
of my area didn’t join the Klan. And the Klan has never held a big rally in Effingham
County, Illinois. Because of people like Father George Nell. [Applause].

In closing, I just want to say all of my role models who are here who have taught me so

The world is a very small place. Mr. [Bobby] Rush and I spoke earlier this evening about
one of our mutual friends, an African-American radio personality who I listened to while
growing up, Bernard “Spider” Harrison – another role model of mine.

And looking out [into the crowd], I see . . . Is Ineva Mae Pittman here, still? [Applause].
Will you stand, please? Ms. Pittman, I love you, and I want to thank you for all the time
we spent together working with the NAACP, and I know that you have a great history of
your work in Jackson. [Applause].

Are Robbie and William Stewart here? Did they make it out tonight? [Yes]. I want to
thank them for being my friends and for their fine example of love and faithfulness and
just always being there for me when I was here. Sometimes, I needed just a little
encouragement, or even a pat on the back, occasionally, and they were there.

I just want to thank you all. I could not possibly name everyone or thank everyone

But Jackson, Mississippi, to me, is one of the greatest places to be on earth because of the
many great African-American role models that I have found here.

And if I [as a white person] cannot have an African-American person as a role model,
then I might as well be a Nazi.

If a person can live here and NOT see and appreciate all of this history and all of this
greatness, then maybe that person needs a new pair of glasses - or maybe other
professional help. [Laughter].

Anyway, in saying goodnight, let me just say that I love you all, and I thank you very
much for all that you give the world, which comes from right here in Jackson,
Mississippi. Thank you.


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