Our Drum Major Instinct

As most of the nation celebrate Martin Luther King National Holiday, I can’t help but wonder what would Martin Luther King say “today” on a day that has been set aside in honor of him and his legacy? What would he say about the progress we as a people have experienced since his death? What would he say about President Obama, Trayvon Martin, ISIS, and his children’s fight over his “Bible and Nobel Peace Prize Medallion”? What would he say about those who profess being a follower and imitator of him but not knowing the Martin Luther that he was named after or the God that both Martin Luthers professed and confessed? And what would he say about black lives matter as St. Louis and other major cities in America report on the daily homicides where mostly those born black are killed daily, killed mostly by other blacks they know and fear?

“Seven homicides in little more than a 24 hour period” reported one anchor for a major television network in St. Louis. Earlier during the morning news cast, the frustration is easily noticed on the face of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson. Nineteen days into the New Year and already 11 homicides. Last year in St. Louis there were a total 14 homicides for the entire month of January. St. Louis has been ranked as “Number One” in the nation in homicides, a ranking that the Show Me State can in no way be proud of. Has St. Louis become the “new Selma?”

Governor Nixon called out the national guard nearly three days prior to the grand jury issuing their decision on the death of Michael Brown, citing the state of “emergency.” News flash, you still have a state of emergency!!! The late Dr. Rev. Frederick Sampson would always say, “man is not in a crisis, man is a crisis.” One can understand the frustration that radiated from the face of Mayor Slay and Chief Dodson. But magnify their frustration 100 times more with the families of loved ones of the homicide victims. The mothers, the fathers, the children, other love ones and the category of those experiencing the loss grows and grows.

A casual review of the seven homicides in the 24 hour period appears to underline the prevailing fact that black lives does not matter. America in general and the St. Louis Metropolitan Area in particular, does not have a “police problem” but a “people Problem” and specifically a “black people problem,” since we are the victims of most of the killings. Chief Dotson reported that regardless of what measures are applied to reduce the city’s crime, violence  is “naturally cyclical” citing the all time high of 267 homicides in St Louis in 1993 and the total of 74 homicides in 2003. The police has nearly cleared four of the seven homicides as arrests have been made. As usual the victim knew the perpetrator or the death was a result of love affair gone bad. Two young black males were killed after meeting with three other men in what appeared as a drug deal that went bad. Not meaning to over simplify, but many of the acts of violence resulted in what our parents would drill into us that “two wrongs” don’t make a right.

Baby Boomers left home with a litany of sayings that our parents, grandparent, aunts or uncles or who ever the caretakers were, “sayings” that stayed with us and help keep us safe and alive. “You make your bed hard, you gotta lay in it. That is your little red wagon. If you can not get alone, get apart. Lay down with dogs, wake up with fleas, you will reap what you sow,” and the list goes on. I specifically like the words of wisdom parted to me by my father, “never be surprise when people do wrong, only be surprise when people do right,” and grandma’s words, “God does not like ugly and is not too pleased with pretty.” I think you get the drift.

Martin Luther King cites the “drum major instinct” that we all have. “I must be first” and “this is all about me,” to sum up the statement. Even infants have it and will cry and raise all kind of “hell” to get their attention and their way. In todays vernacular, one is not concerned about earning an “honest dollar” but just getting a dollar by any means necessary even if you have to rob or kill. There exist a Jewish Proverb, which states that if a father does not teach his son a trade, he teaches him to steal. I contend that if we do not teach our sons to work we not only teach them that they will have to steal, but also rob and kill. Martin Luther King wanted to be known as a drum major for justice, for righteousness. “If I can help somebody as I travel alone, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, then my living will not have been in vain.”

If man is in fact a “crisis” and not in a “crisis,” then maybe we need to be like the widow who kept noticing a spider web in the corner of one room. She would take the broom and knock down the spider web only for the web to re-appear within the next couple of days. Finally she took the broom and decided to go after the “spider.” If we really want to celebrate and honor Martin Luther King, we should know what he would say and what he would do. We would learn of his ways by learning of his words. The same with the Martin Luther of his name sake and to know the God that both men lived and died for.

There is an “FBI” inside of all of us, Rev. Sampson would frequently say. When we go wrong or do wrong, a siren goes off inside of us. Our churches, our worship centers are open basically on Wednesday and Sundays, and we want to let the world know that the church is a hospital where the “sick.” comes. You do not have to sign up for Obama Care. The problem is that those in most need of a physician (the Great Physician) will not come, they must be sought. they will not learn they must be taught. Mayor Francis Slay, Chief Dotson and even Martin Luther (you chose which one) can not save us from us. If we truly “reap what we sow,” unless we go after the “spider” this web of madness will go unabated. Hmmm..!!!

New Year, Old Problems

I will always remember our response when asked by our commanding officer, “what is the problem?” We had finished basic training and advance Infantry training and for most of us, orders to Germany was our second tour of duty as a draftee in the US Army. “You are the problem,” was generally our response if you had been born black and now was wearing army green. Young, immature and uneducated to the ways of the world I did not understand that the military, regardless of the branch of service, was a reflection of the USA, with all the social ills and maladies manifested by the melting pot idea of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Some of our white brother in army green never saw a black man, up close and personal, until we first met in boot camp. Although the goal was to make “us” into “one” there were times Bubba and Bro did not see eye to eye and brute strength was used to settle the difference.  Bubba generally had the advantage over Bro since most of the non commissioner officers and commanding officers shared their common white skin color. We (black men) do not all look-alike, as many times you could get picked out of general formation when someone accused you of acts that could lead to a dishonest discharge or a lesser offense. When blacks got into trouble the first thing taken away from then was their weapon card, an unwritten policy that did not apply to our white brothers. And like America, there were two justice system one for Bubba and one for Brother Man or Bro.

I did not know about the Buffalo Soldiers, the Red Ball Express and the many brave black soldiers of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. I did not know about the many unnamed heroes that were not covered in my history book at the predominately white high school I attended. I did not know how black men were hung with their military uniforms on after fighting for this country to help make the world free when in fact we were not free. But more important than the above, I did not know how segregation and discrimination would have never been addressed if it had not been for the military where black men with weapons (not a gun) gave fatal blow after fatal blow to segregation and discrimination.

New year, old Problems. New Congress same problems. The economic recovery is moving full steam ahead, but poor folks and black folks are catching hell. No one is hiring, benefits no longer offered if you manage to find a job. Banks making all the money they can, then sits on the can, refusing to loan out money regardless of your credit score. Crime at an all time high as the USA get prepared to legalize selling marijuana. I remember the many brothers whose lives were ruined selling marijuana, jail and prison time, the killing over drug turf and now, this 40 Billion Dollar a year enterprise is going legal, at least in the States with the federal government realizing that the genie is out of the bottle

New Year, Old Problems. But problems are the stepping stones to progress. Problem solvers gave us electricity, the automobile, the computer and the list goes on and on. People over the centuries have harness obstacles and made opportunities out of them and there is one thing that poor folks especially black folks have and that problems. Who knows, maybe getting knocked off our bed of comfort and  complacency will produce a year of problems solvers? God knows we need them. Humm…