Had he lived, Martin Luther King, Jr. would be celebrating his 84th birthday today. On Jan. 21 starting at 6 p.m. at the Pavilion at John Knox Village, the Lee’s Summit Community will pay tribute to the life of Dr. King through music, dance and other performances. We will also take a moment to reflect on the dream he left us with, a dream that will continue to resonate in the future.
King’s dream transcends generations. He left us years ago, but his dream is alive in each of us today. His dream continues today to inspire young and old and all people from all walks of life regardless of their physical and spiritual differences at home here in Lee’s Summit and abroad.
Growing up in a small village in the rain forest in Cameroon-Central Africa, we were required to recite King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” to passing into the higher grade. Actually, we recited it in a language that we did not understand. It was many years later that I found out that the language of King’s speech was English. Looking back, I am amazed that our teacher taught us the speech in a language he himself did not speak.
Learning and reciting something in another language was not new to us. In our K-3 Catholic school classroom, which served as the church sanctuary on Sunday, we learned and recited prayers, including The Lord’s Prayer, in Latin. There was a certain profound mysticism in talking to God, whom we could not see in His own language – Latin – that we did not understand. Comparatively, there was a similar, but not quite equal mysticism in saying King’s speech in his own language – English – that we did not understand.
King’s dream transcends national barriers, frontiers and borders. He said, “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.” Mountains are found all over the world. He sprayed his message of peace and hope everywhere during his numerous trips around the world. One of the most talked-about trips was a trip to Ghana in 1957.
At the invitation of the new Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, King traveled to West Africa to attend Ghana’s independence ceremony on March 6, 1957. King’s attendance to this open-door event was highly symbolic as Ghana was the first black African colony to gain independence from the British colonial rule.
King used his trip to Africa to establish a global alliance of oppressed peoples. His attendance to the first independence Europeans granted Africa represented an attempt to broaden the scope of the civil rights struggle in the United States. King recognized a strong parallel between resistance against European colonialism in Africa and the struggle against racism in the United States. He saw in Ghana an example of success that could be replicated elsewhere in the world. In fact, it is reported that King met then-Vice President Richard Nixon, head of the U.S. delegation to Ghana. King told Nixon, “I want you to come visit us down in Alabama where we are seeking the same kind of freedom the Gold Coast (Ghana’s name prior to independence) is celebrating.”
The theme for 2013 MLK celebration in Lee’s Summit is, “The time is always right to do right.” For us here and now, the time is now. You do not need to wait until you graduate from high school or from college, or until all children are grown, or until your business flourishes or you have a new promotion; you do not need to wait any longer. Live the dream now, “do right.”
Emmanuel Ngomsi, Ph.D. is President of All World Languages and Cultures, Inc. He consults and coaches on cultures, cultural diversity and languages. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.