If MLK was alive today, what would he think of today’s politics?

In four days, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as our nation’s 45th president.

We all know what’s happened for the past year a half. We all know how polarizing it’s been in this country.

A lot of people like to say that this election divided America. However, what I’ve realized is that these divisions were always there. This election just brought it out in the open.

If Hillary Clinton eked out an electoral victory, do you think that would have silenced the people who are fostering hate? Of course not. They’d still be there.

But Trump did win. And in four days, it becomes official.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s fair to wonder what he would think of today’s political climate were he alive today?

Call me crazy, but I think he’d be hopeful.

martin-luther-king

While it’s true that we are transferring power from our nation’s first African-American president to a man who is so culturally obtuse that his rallying cry to sway black people was asking them “What do you have to lose?” it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going backwards.

And yes, it’s true that a Trump administration won’t continue the progressive agenda that Barack Obama championed, and likely will even scale back some of the measures his predecessor implemented to protect civil rights.

But not even Trump can stop progress when our nation’s fought too hard to achieve it.

Since Nov. 8, people are more emboldened. They’re more likely to stand up for what they believe in. They’re more willing to become advocates.

Since Nov. 8, we are looking out for one another. We’re all making sure that the most vulnerable factions of are population are protected.

Since Nov. 8, we’re putting our money where are mouth is, donating in record numbers to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.

Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement never expected to end racism and discrimination in a day. They — like all visionaries — knew that progress would be slow and arduous, and that there would be many obstacles along the way.

But if you look at our country’s history, we’ve always shone the brightest after our darkest days.

What dreamers like Martin Luther King sought to achieve was to change the status quo. To convince people to have empathy for those who aren’t like them.

Changing the mind of one single person is one thing.

Changing the minds of millions is another.

Martin Luther King envisioned a world where love overpowers hate. Where helping each other is not a choice, but a responsibility. Where equality reigns free and we build bridges, not walls.

Forty-nine years after Martin Luther King’s assassination, millions upon millions of people view the world the same way he does. And millions more will follow.

One president can’t change that.

Happy MLK day, everyone.

2016 takes another: Spread your wings, sweet Eagle

I was super ready to come back this week all happy and upbeat and move forward from the startling amount of deaths of iconic artists that have taken place in this young year.

And then, around midday on Monday, the news broke that Glenn Frey, the founding member of the Eagles, has died.

God freaking dammit. Come on. Like seriously. What gives?

Is this like some warped version of Final Destination? Are the heavens taking away every celebrity, one by one, until the line ends at Kevin Bacon, or something?

Because if that’s true, just take Kevin Bacon right now. Skip everyone else. I’m sorry, Kevin. I promise I’ll remember you fondly every time I eat a piece of bacon.

Glenn Frey EaglesIn all seriousness though, if you’ve never listened to the Eagles, drop what you’re doing right now and change that. You will never hear more smoother, melodic, effortless music in your life. Listening to the Eagles is the musical equivalent to running your hand over a velvet surface.

And next time you’re due for a lengthy road trip, just plug a few Eagles albums into your iPod, and it’ll pass the time so quickly that you could drive to Alaska without once becoming bored. Except maybe when you’re waiting in line at Customs to cross into Canada, and the border patrol agent makes you turn your music down and asks you trivial, superfluous questions to gauge your reaction and make sure you’re not smuggling drugs into the country.

Anyway, everyone knows “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” “Take it Easy” and “New Kid in Town,”  but try other some other stuff in the coming weeks. I recommend “Doolin-Dalton,” “Certain Kind of Fool,” and my personal favorite, “The Last Resort,” to get you started.

Heck, the last album the band released in 2007, “Long Road Out of Even,” is excellent from start to finish. That’s the true mark of a talented band. Even after 45+ years of making music, and spending much of that time apart to embark on solo careers, they can still reunite and make something spectacular.

Side note: I know there’s no “The” in front of the band name, but it just sounds so awkward to say it that way grammatically.

The beautiful thing about music is that, once it’s made, it’s not going anywhere. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a death to remind us about a good thing. But between David Bowie and Glenn Frey, their legacies left us enough music to keep us occupied for at least the first half of 2016.

Before I go, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s a time for us all to remember an American hero, to appreciate how one man, when fueled by determination, can make a difference, and to also consider how much progress our nation has made over the last several decades.

Or, in the mind of some in the movie industry, it provided a platform to blast the MLK.jpgAcademy Awards for its lack of recognition for black actors.

I’m referring to the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, and director Spike Lee, who each took to social media to make their point. Come on. I get that this is something that should be talked about, but is today really the day to do it?

Playing the race card to make people feel guilty is not the way to honor Martin Luther King. If he knew this was going to be taking place 48 years after his death, it would probably lead him to believe that we have made almost zero progression over that time.

And since when did the Oscars become a symbol of race relations? When it’s come to the point that we need Straight Outta Compton to be nominated for Best Picture to prove that our nation is making strides in racial equality, then we have a problem.

Instead, let’s talk about a proper way to honor MLK, like the words offered by President Obama on his Twitter account.

“It is our mission to fulfill his vision of a nation devoted to rejecting bigotry in all its forms.”

That I can jump on board with.

Marty King’s dreams were probably a little better than yours

Just as Martin Luther King would have wanted, I’m beginning this blog with a plug: Beyond the Credits. Check it out.

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So I’m a little more educated on civil rights this particular Martin Luther King Day Jr. than any other. Not because I made an effort to learn more, but because, when I was in Memphis last May, I visited the Civil Rights Museum. While I was there, tornado sirens suddenly went off throughout Memphis, and my group found ourselves confined inside the mini-theater within the museum.

Consequently, while we waited for the sirens to subside, I was forced to watch a Martin Luther King remembrance video three consecutive times on a loop.

Memphis, as you all should know, is the place where King was assassinated. He was staying in the Lorraine Hotel at the time, and yours truly was able to snap a photo of the landmark hotel upon my visit:

MLK's last living inhabitance.

Last week, I read a story in the newspaper that said that Memphis officials voted unanimously to rename a nine-block downtown stretch called Linden Ave. to Dr. Martin Luther King Ave. Over 900 cities in the U.S. have streets named after Dr. King, but the one he died in didn’t until recently. Go figure.

What a lot of people don’t know about Martin King is that he actually foresaw his own death. I mean, the dude received bags full of death threats each day, so I guess it’s not that hard, but as always, it’s just the way that he said it.

On April 3, 1968, one day before he was killed, King closed out his final speech as such:

And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Pretty eerie.

Martin Luther King is easily one of the most iconic men who ever lived, and one of the reasons he was probably able to accomplish so much was his ability to present. To deliver a speech with the utmost eloquence and conviction. The guy could say anything and he could have gained a following.

His “I Have a Dream” speech could have been about a different dream he had, like a giant marshmallow invading the United States and attacking us all, and millions of people still would have come out to hear him, and would have cheered and cried.

Martin Luther King's other dream.

I think public speaking is something that has been lost in the “information age” of computers, social media, video games and smart phones.

People think that they are conversing with others throughout the day, but they’re really not. Talking on gchat, or through text messaging, or on somebody’s wall, is not a verbal exchange. You are not honing your articulation skills through these means.

If anything, you’re harming them. We spend so many of our hours talking on a computer screen, that when it comes to actually speaking to others face-to-face, it becomes a challenge. That is why so many kids these days suffer from ADD, social anxiety, and just general awkwardness.

And if you ever want to doubt the importance of public speaking, just think about Martin Luther King. Do you think he would have accomplished as much if he was a scrawny kid who spent all of his time online? Or rather, if he was the black Mark Zuckerberg?

Do you think his speech would have been as influential, or captivated as many people if went like this:

“I have a dream that, uh, you know,  one day this, what do you call it, this nation will like, rise up and stuff, and live out the true meaning of its — haha, did you see that squirrel over there? It’s tail looked funny! Oh, wait, where was I? Oh, right, live out the meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. But seriously, did nobody see that squirrel?”

And picture it with a wimpy Jesse Eisenberg-like voice, and not with the sharp, adamant inflection that only MLK could provide.

I know, as a blogger, I shouldn’t rally talk. I myself suffer from a mumbling disorder. But hey, I never said I was trying to change the world.

OR AM I?

A Story on MLK Day.

Let me tell you a story from my childhood.  The people, places, and events in this story are all real:

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One day, I was home sitting alone on my couch enjoying some television and homemade potato salad. It was quite enjoyable and I was having a fine time by myself. Suddenly, my phone rang. I gave a slight groan because I knew what was coming. Expectantly, it was my boy T-Bone on the other end.

“Yo man,” said T-Bone. “Get dressed. You’re coming out with us.”

“Nah man,” I replied. ‘I’m way too tired.”

I can hear him repeating my response to somebody else in the car. Then I hear a deeper voice than T-Bone speak.

“Fuck that,” said the voice. “Give me the phone.”

“Oh boy,” I say silently to myself.

“Yo Dubs! It’s me, Three Ball Caps. You pussying out on us?” The voice was so loud I had to take the phone away from my ear momentarily.

“Dude, relax. You don’t gotta yell.  And no… I’m not pussying out… I’m just tired.”

“Bullshit. Three dollar pitchers at Uncle Bucks’s Tavern, tonight. We’ll be outside your house in five minutes.”

“I really wish I –“ click.

Sigh. It looked like I was going out.

After getting dressed in a hurry, I proceeded to go out with my three friends. Along with T-Bone and Three Ball caps, my old pal Fishstick was also tagging along. Pitchers were indeed three dollars, just as Three Ball Caps said. I had no reason to not believe him. If anybody’s gonna know about cheap beer specials, it’s Three Ball Caps.

Four eventful hours later that involved several pitchers, some shots, three games of pool, four rejections by three different girls (somehow), and one near-fight, the four of us were quite inebriated when Uncle Buck himself finally asked us to leave so that he could close down the bar.

“Good night… Uncle Fuck!” yelled Fishstick as we were leaving. “Ha ha! You see what I said there?! I called him Uncle Fuck. But his name is really Uncle Buck!”

“Nice one, man!” I laughed, giving him a high five.

We continued walking for several minutes, laughing and joking about a variety of topics. Finally, Three Ball Caps stopped walking.
“Hey guys…”

“What’s up, Caps?”

“Didn’t we drive here?”

“Oh, shit!” I said. “He’s right. We did drive here!”

“So?” questioned Fishstick. “Why does it matter? We can’t drive now, anyway. We’re fuckin’ loaded!”

“Don’t be such a bitch,” said T-Bone. “I’m the best drunk driver there is. You know that.”

T-Bone began reaching into his pockets, searching for his keys.

“Oh, fuck… I my keys… they’re not here!”

“It’s alright, man,” I said. “Don’t panic. I’m sure you left them at Uncle Buck’s. We’ll go home, get some sleep, and then go back tomorrow morning.”

“It’s not that,” he responded. “I left my weed in the car!”

This sentence struck us like a knife to the chest. He might as well of just told us that one of our best friends just died. Several moments of silence followed until Fishstick finally spoke up.

“Oh my God,” he said frantically. “What are we gonna do?! I gotta get my fix, man! I haven’t gone a night without smoking in seven years!” cried T-Bone. “I can’t stop now! This is a disaster!”

“Get a grip on yourself, T-Bone!” I exclaimed, “First of all, is this really a “disaster?” It’s not that big of a deal. You guys can’t just not smoke for one night?’

“What the fuck did you say?” yelled Three Ball Caps.

“Umm… nothing.”

“That’s what I thought. Alright, let’s think here. “T-Bone, you still talk to your dealer, right?”

“Umm… not really,” replied T-Bone.

“What do you mean?”

“I kinda…. uh….. slept with his girlfriend.”

“Ah, fuck man!” yelled Caps. “You don’t fuck around with your dealers, man! Everyone knows that!”

“Have you seen his girlfriend, man?”

“I don’t give a f-“

“Alright, alright,” I chimed in, trying to restore some order. “Let’s just head back to where we parked the car. Then we’ll figure out what to do next.”

“You know what,” started T-Bone, “I’m kinda tired. I think I’m just gonna go home.”

Nobody expected what happened next. The silence of the night was interrupted by the sound of a cocked gun. I turned my head quickly, fearing what I was about to see. Three Ball caps was pointing a gun straight at T-Bone.

“You ain’t goin’ nowhere,” he said.

“C-caps,” I said fearfully, not removing my eyes from the gun. “Where… where did you get a gun from?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he replied. “What were you saying T-Bone? Something about you going home?”

“N-nah man,” said T-Bone. “Relax, man. Lower the gun. I was just joking. I’m not leaving…”

Three Ball Caps continued to stare him down. Finally, he lowered the gun.

“That’s what I thought. Now come on.”

He turned around and started walking. We had no choice but to follow. The night had taken an unexpected turn, and we were all scared out of our wits. After twenty minutes of walking in silence, we arrived back at Uncle Buck’s and located T-Bone’s car.

“Let’s search the ground for his keys,” said Three Ball Caps.

So we searched. Not surprisingly, our search was unsuccessful. Finally, after about thirty minutes, I spoke up.

“This is ridiculous,” I said. “Those keys have to be in the bar. We’re not going to find them.”

“Alright then,” said Three Ball Caps. He picked up a large rock.

“Wait!” yelled T-Bone. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I’mma smash the window.”

“You fuckin’ kidding me, man?” said T-Bone. “This is my dad’s car, he’ll kill me!”

“Who you more afraid of?” responded Three Ball Caps. “Your dad… or me?”

At these words, T-Bone stared down Three Ball Caps. I was terrified as to what was gonna happen, In fact, if it wasn’t for what happened next, I’m convinced that things would’ve made a turn for the worst. But that’s when a fifth voice spoke up; a voice we had never heard before.

“I think I can solve your problem.”

We all immediately turned. Leaning against the wall of Uncle Buck’s stood a man whose likes had never been seen before in this town. It was a colored man.

“Who the fuck are you?” said Fishstick. I could sense the fear in his voice.

“I’m nobody,” said the man. “But I could help you.”

“We don’t need any help,” said T-Bone. “Especially not from… you.”

The man simply laughed. “Yeah, I get that a lot.” He started walking closer to us. “Let me make you a deal…”

“Get the fuck back!” yelled Three Ball Caps. For the second time that night, he reached into his back pocket for something.

“There’s no need to whip out a gun,” the man said, his voice still eerily calm. “I mean no harm. Like I said, I can help you. I heard about your predicament, and I think we could help each other out.”

A few moments of silence passed. Despite the fact that this man was a complete stranger, I couldn’t help but feel that we could trust him.

“I think we should hear him out, guys,” I said.

The man smiled at me. “Smart one.”

My three friends didn’t respond. Their eyes remained fixed on the mysterious man, and their faces contained looks of deep disgust.

“So what do you want?” I asked.

“All I want,” he started, “Is to smoke with you.”

“Alright genius,” said Fishstick. “If you know our “predicament” so well, you’ll know that our stash is in the car, and we ain’t got the keys!”

“Right,” replied the man. “What if I could say that I could get into the car… without damaging it.”

“I’d say you’re a fucking liar,” said T-Bone.

“Well then, give me a chance.” The man said. “I get into the car, you let me smoke with you guys.”

The four of us looked at each other. We were desperate. I could tell that Three Ball Caps didn’t want to trust him. But he also loves his weed. And that man wanted to get high.

“You have five minutes,” said Caps.

The man smiled. He walked over to the car and examined it.  Then he reached into his pocket. At this, Three Ball Caps whipped out his gun and pointed it at him.

“Chill man,” said the man. “It’s only a piece of wire. “It’s a very useful thing to carry around. You’ll see.”

He went to work. After a couple minutes, sweat began to trickle down his forehead. However, as he worked at picking the lock on the driver’s side door, we finally heard a click.

“It’s like magic,” said the man. Then he opened the door.

“Well I’ll be damned,” said Fishstick.

We all stared at the man in awe. Where did he come from? However, we shoved those questions aside, as we were all very desperate to get high. T-Bone pulled out a dutch and immediately began rolling a blunt. Twenty-five minutes later, the five of us were as high as a kite, sitting on the curb outside of Uncle Buck’s.

“Where’d you learn to do that shit, man?” asked Caps. “that shit was wild.”

“Oh, you pick up some things here and there,” he responded. “It’s not really a big deal. I can teach you guys if you want.”

“Well I apologize for pointing a gun at you, man… it’s hard to know who to trust around here, you know?”

“We cool, bro,” said the man, giving Caps a pound.

“And you too Bones,” Caps continued, turning towards T-Bone. “I’m an idiot. I don’t know what got into me.”

“Seriously man, you scared the shit outta me,” said T-Bone. “But you know I love ya, man. We good. But where the hell did you get that gun from, anyway?”

I had been wondering the same thing.

“I stole it, actually,” replied Caps. “From a pimp.”

“Wow, man,” said Fishstick. “That’s pretty foolish.”

“Give me the gun.”

We turned. It was the man that said that. He was extending his hand towards Caps.

“What?”

“I said… hand me the gun. Trust me.”

Again, we had absolutely no reason to fully trust this man, but yet, he exuded an aura of extreme likability, and we couldn’t help but believe him. Caps thought for a second, then took out the gun and handed it to him. Immediately, the man stood up, and tossed the gun over a fence and into the river.

“You’ll thank me later,” he said.

I was liking this man more and more by the second.

“I don’t believe in violence,” he said. “As long as you’re patient, and you do the right things… you can get what you want.”

“You just blew my fuckin’ mind, man,” said Fishstick.

“You know,” started T-Bone. “I’ve never met someone like you before. You know, a colored man. You hear things, though. That you guys are… evil. That you aren’t equal to us. But, after talking to you and all, I don’t believe that. I think you’re a good guy, and that you people have been given a raw deal of it.”

The rest of us nodded our heads at these words. The man simply smiled.

“Thanks man,” he said. “That really means a lot to me, coming from you. We have certainly been given a raw deal, no doubt about it. But like I said, as long as we are patient, as long we remain civil and disobedient… we will be given our fair share in this world. If I have to do it myself, I’ll make sure it happens.”

It sounded ridiculous, but I couldn’t help but believe him. It was just then that I remembered something.

“It’s funny,” I said. “I had a dream last night… that I met a colored man. I hadn’t even thought about it until now. But when I woke up, I laughed about it. Never in a million years did I think it would actually happen for real.”

“Sometimes dreams do come true,” he said. “you wanna hear about my dream? I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

“Holy shit,” I said, “That’s deep man.”

“Yeah…” he said absentmindedly, “I think about those kind of things often.”

“No, but seriously,” I asserted, “you should like… write a speech or something. You’re very eloquent.”

“Maybe I will,” he replied, “Maybe I will…”

We all stood in silence, thinking about what this man had just said. For years, we have kept colored people repressed, not allowing them to advance further in our society. But after talking to this man, I couldn’t help but feel anger for him, and at what we have put him through. He deserved better. And yet, he wasn’t even angry! He was… calm, and relaxed. This was man was unlike anyone I had ever met before.

“Alright guys,” he said, standing up. “I should get going. Thanks for letting me toke with you guys.”

“Yea, man”, T-Bone. “Thanks for helping us with the car.”

“Not a problem,” he responded. “I had a great time… and you guys are good people. You made me think about a lot of things. Who knows, maybe I will write that speech.”

“You should,” said Fishstick. “I’d certainly wanna hear it.”

“Thanks,” he said. Well Dubs, Fishstick, T-Bone, Three Ball Caps, have a good night. Perhaps our paths will cross again someday.”

I had no idea how he knew our names. I did not recall any of us revealing them.

“Wait!” I yelled. “We didn’t catch your name!”

He stopped at turned towards us, and smiled.

“Call me Marty,” he said. “Marty King. Junior.”

At that, he turned the corner and walked out of our lives, leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever see or hear from this mysterious man ever again.