Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The LuLac Edition #3749, April 4th, 2018

Martin Luther King  (Photo: Life Magazine)
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King. King was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers strike that had been raging since earlier in the year. Prior to King’s death, this strike would have been a mere blip on the radar screen that was the year 1968.
King’s involvement in the strike was regarded by some as an outreach into what King and his followers were going to attempt next. While Civil Rights was still not settled (well in a way it still isn’t 50 years later) King was branching out his message to include economic inequality. By supporting the sanitation workers, King had hoped to make the point that the dignity of a decent salary was as important to humanity as well as equal rights under the law.
It was a Thursday night. The rule in our house was that you did your homework in your room. Plus there was only one TV per house back then. But my parents were out that night and I had my books spread out on the kitchen table doing my school work. In the living room, I had NBC on and as the Huntley Brinkley Report ended, anchor Chet Huntley made the startling announcement. While we don’t have video of Mr. Huntley, we do have a broadcast report as it happened from WCCO Radio.

For me, even as an eighth grader, the death of Dr. King was a shock. I had been blessed to go to a school that emphasized current events. Plus, as a young news nerd I had been familiar with the March on Washington as well as King’s staunch opposition, made in a speech just one year to the day before his death, about the injustice of the Vietnam War.
After the shooting and death, our class watched events unfolding on TV in school. The educators at St. John the Baptist in Pittston rolled this behemoth black and white TV out as the combined 7th and 8th grade classes watched events unfold.
As a Catholic school, we were preparing for Holy Week. King was killed before the start of that commemoration. But the biblical phrasing he used in his speeches were not lost on any of us as the days drew near for the King funeral on Tuesday of Holy Week. Again, we were allowed to watch that all day coverage that spanned our entry into the school building all the way through the evening news when we arrived home.
In preparing this edition as well as my segment on WBRE TV’s Pa Live, I wondered what the local news coverage was in print. To be honest, I had not remembered how the King event was reported. But in reviewing records of his death, the thing I noticed about the coverage (even some of the national too) was that the emphasis after the announcement of his death, focused  on the violence that happened in some sections of America. Fifty years later, I thought that ironic for a man who preached non violence. To be sure, I understand the pain many were going through but I saw little empathy and understanding as to why this was being done.
Here is a sampling of the local news coverage from The Wilkes Barre Record and The Times Leader. My thanks to the Osterhout Free Library Information Services for allowing me access to print these for you. You might have to click enlarge the print. 
The news coverage closer to the funeral changed a bit more toward the memorials that began to materialize. A beautiful ecumenical service was held on April 6th at Mount Zion Baptist church where various church leaders of all faiths gathered together to speak of King the man and his mission.
From the pulpit of Mt. Zion Pastor Wesley Atterberry, religious leaders spoke of the need for humanity and kindness to prevail. A collection was taken up and garnered around $600.00 which seems like a paltry sum today. But the money was sent to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that King founded that would be run by his successor Ralph David Abernathy. 

Minutes before the shooting. (Photo:
Fifty years after King’s death,  there is still much work to be done. The landscape today, both political and social would be foreign even to King if he saw what was going on. A young black man being shot 20 times in their grandmother’s back yard is something King would never abide. The blatant racism displayed proudly and loudly on Social Media would puzzle the man who used communication as a tool of love. The attempt to delegitimize the first Black American President would sadly though, hardly surprise him. When Mrs. LuLac and I go for rides in the summer on weekends, we see Confederate flags on houses around this region. That more than anything else tells you there is still  a long way to go.
But King’s young life, all of 39 years was all about struggle. In order for us to continue the legacy cut short by a bullet this night in Memphis, clear thinking, decent people need to struggle with the obstacles of hate still among us and call them out.


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