Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Dreamer” and “Dismantler”

Posted on January 13, 2014 by


Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Dreamer” and “Dismantler”
By Minister Mxolisi Ozo-Sowande / aka T. Sowell, Jr.
Senior Minister Emeritus, Wo’se Community House of Amen Ra

Here we are again: In the midst of another “I Have a Dream” re-run season. Another season of failing and refusing to appreciate the fullness of the man – Martin Luther King, Jr. – and his hopes and actions for the betterment of humanity; beginning with you and me, Black people; extending to the totality of this nation, the U.S.A.; ultimately encompassing and impacting the totality of the world’s population.

He had a “dream” alright. But it included and empowered his perception of the need for some “dismantling” to take place; some ripping away of the cloak of complacency, delusion and hubris about the U.S.A. being Heaven-on-Earth in all things; some clearing away of the pale, thick-lying pus that clouded the physical-philosophical-spiritual eyes of too many “Americans” – a condition that caused (causes) too many of them/us to be blind or dismissive relative to the Hell-on-Earth conditions that are systematically imposed and profitably sustained on huge numbers of our fellow citizens.

As a student at Crozier Seminary, there was an occasion when King called together some of his classmates, according to Marcus Garvey Wood (one of those classmates), seeking their support for the mission to which he felt called, with these words: “You all must stick by me, for I am going to dismantle this society.” (See Time magazine, Aug. 26-Sept. 2, 2013, pg. 72).

That dismantling spirit was a powerful part of the “I Have a Dream” speech nearly 51 years ago, as the realities of the miseries being inflicted upon African Americans were put into stark contrast against the sanctimonious language and phrases of the foundational documents of the nation – its Constitution, Declarations, Proclamations, Bill of Rights, and other “bankrupt” papers. Even more, the dismantling spirit manifested itself in the life Dr. King lived; a life that powerfully reflected the understanding that dreams, like prayers, have got to have some feet up under them; that words are wonderful but deeds are divine; and when one remains silent or complacent in the face of things that really matter is when one becomes a living-dead being.

That dismantling spirit found expression in young Martin King, when as an 18 year old Morehouse College student he wrote an essay for the campus newspaper entitled “The Purpose of Education.” In that writing he shared his perception that too many of his “brethren” were in college for the primary purpose of gaining tools by which to be successful in exploiting their people rather than for the gaining of tools and strengthening of character that would enable them to be of service to their people in the ongoing battle for justice and equality. “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of education,” were emphatic words in that article.

The Content of Character!!
That dismantling spirit has a crucial role to play today, when it comes to putting some feet up under the dream of this nation becoming one that judges a person “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” It’s a multi-faceted, ongoing challenge, but the primary focus in this presentation is for us, Black folks, to “think intensively and to think critically” about the content of the character by which we desire to be judged (by one another, and by all others) and to act decisively and diligently in defining it, promoting it, embracing it, teaching it, and rewarding it — with our children, our peers and all others! We need to rip away whatever cloaks are leaving us to believe that the Character of our dreams is going to materialize out of nowhere, that maybe one day “GOD” is going to strike a blow on Plymouth Rock and that Character is going to flow everywhere and be sopped up by everyone. Dr. King addressed that sort of fantasy with these words: <em>“The belief that God will do everything for man is as untenable as the belief that man can do everything for himself. It, too, is based on a lack of faith. We must learn that to expect God to do everything while we do nothing is not faith but superstition.” Dr. King

Somebody rescue me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall us ever having a character development campaign to put some feet up under Dr. King’s character dream. Additionally, we need a strong renewal of our culture consciousness campaign to give greater legs to W.E.B DuBois’ dream for the development of emissaries (he said missionaries) of our culture from within our ranks. So I’m proposing and working to proliferate the following: That we get real busy with the widely used “Six Pillars of Character” put forth by the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the “Seven Cultural Principles” that come to us through the Kwanzaa/Nguzo Saba tradition (coming from studies of the values and practices of the most harmonious and productive Black/African families, communities and nations throughout our history).

The “Six Pillars of Character” are:

Be honest • Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal • Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do • Have the courage to do the right thing • Build a good reputation • Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, community and country

Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule • Be tolerant and accepting of differences • Use good manners, not bad language • Be considerate of the feelings of others • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements

Do what you are supposed to do • Plan ahead • Persevere: keep on trying! • Always do your best • Use self-control • Be self-disciplined • Think before you act — consider the consequences • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes • Set a good example for others

Play by the rules • Take turns and share • Be open-minded; listen to others • Don’t take advantage of others • Don’t blame others carelessly • Treat all people fairly

Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need

Do your share to make your school and community better • Cooperate • Get involved in community affairs • Stay informed; vote • Be a good neighbor • Obey laws and rules • Respect authority • Protect the environment • Volunteer
* * *
The “Seven Great Principles for Cultural Excellence and Success” are:

To strive and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. (To strive for a principled, harmonious togetherness in the family, community, nation and world African community.)
This principle for living grows from the consciousness and experience of The Creator living in and through each of us and all of us. It is the expectation that in our relationships with one another we will strive to live and give nothing less than the love, truth, righteousness, harmony, and high expectations that the spirit of GOD within empowers us to do.

To define ourselves, name ourselves, create and speak for ourselves instead of being defined, named, created for and spoken for by others.
This principle, with its individual and collective dimensions, seeks to secure our collective commitment to use the intellectual, analytical and visionary powers of our hearts and minds to evaluate and define the circumstances of our lives and take responsibility for defining and implementing the means by which we can achieve the greatest good and well-being for our families and communities – here and now and evermore.

Collective work and responsibility:
To build and maintain our community together and make our sisters’ and brothers’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
This is a commitment and behavior that grows from the spirit and power of Unity and Self-determination within. It is your willingness to help, to the fullest extent of your capabilities, members of your family and community to achieve the greatest good and well-being that life can yield. It’s not talk but walk! It is action designed to achieve the greatest good that a given life or situation has potential to yield.

Cooperative economics:
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. (To build our own businesses, control the economics of our own community and share in all its work and wealth.)
This is the primary means by which to reap the benefits and blessings embodied in the wisdom that teaches, “GOD helps those who help themselves.” It is the means by which to implement the economic aspects of our plans for the greatest good and well-being for our families and communities. This principle calls on us as family and community to establish and support networks of enterprises whose concepts of profit and success include serving and assisting those whose patronage provides for that success. It calls on us to use the best know-how and strategies in the universe of economic activity to maximize our buying power, employment and ownership opportunities, and long-term economic well-being – at every level, on every front.

To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
This principle relates to our being informed through the “Sankofa” vision and inspiration that we are called to know and share in our hearts and souls, as we pull for the greatest good and well-being of our families and communities throughout the world. “Sankofa” is our looking back to the awesome discoveries and achievements of our ancestors in every field of human endeavor. Our ancestors were the premiere and superior creators and innovators of human achievement in agriculture, medicine, architecture, economics, education, politics, science, spirituality and more. They made it possible for humanity to move from barbarism to civilization. Purpose is the desire and determination that this “Sankofa” knowledge brings to life within our individual and collective consciousness to emulate and excel that excellence in our endeavors; not only for the benefit of our families and communities but, ultimately, for all humanity.

To do always as much as we can, in any way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.
The ultimate meaning of this word – creativity — in many African languages refers supremely to the spirit and power of GOD doing the work of Creation. This understanding serves to elevate our thoughts and perceptions regarding the way in which we are to use the skills and talents – the “creativity” – entrusted to us. They are sacred gifts and powers to be used not only for the individual’s personal satisfaction and well-being but, even more, for the advancement of the cause of peace, prosperity and wholeness for our families and communities throughout the earth. Kuumba is the creative power of GOD within, not merely for entertainment and fun, but for the eternal attainment of making the world a better place. Kuumba is for hope, justice and joy.

To believe with all our hearts in our Creator, our people, our parents, teachers and leaders, and in the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Faith is the eternal flame of hope, courage and determination that is fueled by the presence and impact of divinity within your being. It is that “something within” that keeps you trusting that the way of Truth and Righteousness will ultimately provide for the prosperity and peace of our families and communities and all the earth. Faith keeps you striving diligently to make your best contribution toward that prosperity and peace — come what may. Faith is the quality and force of your respect for the potential of divinity within you that keeps the flames of these principles, this way of life, alive and well in you. Let’s keep the faith!
Let’s pledge to always honor and exemplify these principles that have been tried, tested and proven by our ancestors and elders throughout our history — all over the world.
The aim is to get these Pillars and Principles into the hands, heads, hearts and consciousness of all heads of households throughout our communities, and get them to teach, share and model them with their children, kin folk, and their peers – pro-actively, diligently, religiously!
The aim is to dismantle random and hit-or-miss approaches for our Character and Cultural development through the utilization of the following:

Suggestions for Cultivating the Character and Culture of
Excellence and Success in the Family

Develop a Family Mission Statement:
• “We desire to be a family that follows principled behavior for loving relationships and character based on ethical values that we can pass on to our relatives, friends, associates and future generations. These values include The Six Pillars of Character, as well as the Seven Cultural Principles of our African way of life. I promise to do all I can, in every way I can, to know and live these values to the fullest of my ability.” (example)
• Include input and reflections from all members of the household, including the children and youth.

Create an environment that encourages and nurtures character development:
• Post the Six Pillars of Character and the Seven Cultural Principles where they are available to everyone in the family
• Post words or phrases of the day/week/month on refrigerator, bulletin boards, or other convenient places
• Post things to be memorized in those convenient locations
• Post words of recognition, praise and congratulations for displays of desired development
• Use your imagination
• Insist on good character and cultural practices at all times by all members of the family

Family discussions (dinner time and other):
• Allow everyone to speak openly & honestly regarding their feelings about family values
• Discuss your observations regarding each one’s progress and areas for improvement
• Whom do you admire and why?
• What is the difference between a celebrity and a hero?
• What qualities would you like in the person you marry?
• Allow these discussions to make a profound impact on the 30-million word gap under which too many of our children suffer in the first 3-4 years of their lives (and their entire families), resulting in the development of an avoidance attitude when it comes to oral communications.
*** (“Talk grows your baby’s brain,” is one way it has been expressed. We need to encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children – almost all the time, about almost everything, weaving in the Pillars and Principles [by word and by deed] at every opportunity; closing that gap, in the most extreme cases, calls for as much as 2000 additional words of conversation per waking hour.)

Role play:
• Discuss and act out real or theoretical situations and the specific character values that apply for good outcomes

Assign character tasks:
• Individual household chores or tasks (indoors or outdoors)
• Chores or tasks requiring cooperation or teamwork
• Chores or tasks requiring service to others (within the household and/or within extended family or community
• Decide on a family project of service to other households or the community (i.e. – helping another family with the implementation of this Character/Principles program when needed, due to circumstances such as working schedule of parent(s)

Develop a family library:
• Include historical, biographical books that reflect strong positive character/culture at work
• Fiction as well as non-fiction that encourage and demonstrate strong positive character/culture
• Take turns reading to one another daily (at least 20 minutes a day)
• Share and discuss your observations of what has been read

Be selective with television, videos & music:
• Develop effective strategies regarding TV, school homework and other assignments
• Exercise reasonable control over what children are allowed to watch
• Be selective regarding videos and video games, and music also
• Choose some programs, videos, games, music to be enjoyed and discussed together by the whole family

Especially for adults:
• Be the model of what you teach!
• Remember – Children are inclined to emulate adults with whom they have positive relationship

Strategies to Help Our Children Develop Good Character
From the book Parents, Kids, & Character: Twenty-one Strategies to Help Your Children Develop Good Character
By Dr. Helen R. LeGette, published by Character Development Publishers

1. Model good character in the home. As William Bennett observes in The Book of Virtues, ‘there is nothing more influential, more determinant in a child’s life than the moral power of a quiet example.’ It is critically important that those who are attempting to influence children’s character in positive ways ‘walk the talk.’

2. Be clear about your values. Tell your children where you stand on important issues. Good character (and cultural practices) are both taught and caught. If we want children to internalize the virtues that we value, we need to teach them what we believe and why. In the daily living of our lives, there are countless opportunities to engage children in moral conversation.

3. Show respect for your spouse, your children, and other family members. Parents who honor each other, who share family responsibilities, and who resolve their differences in peaceful ways communicate a powerful message about respect. If children experience respect firsthand within the family, they are more likely to be respectful of others. Simply stated, respect begets respect.

4. Model and teach your children good manners. Insist that all family members use good manners in the home. Good manners are really the Golden Rule in action. Whether the issue is courtesy or other simple social graces, it is in the home that true thoughtfulness for others has its roots.

5. Have family meals together without television as often as possible. Mealtime is an excellent time for parents to talk with and listen to their children and to strengthen family ties. Whether the meal is a home-cooked feast or fast-food from the drive-through, the most important ingredient is the sharing time – the time set aside to reinforce a sense of belonging to and being cared about by the family.

6. Plan as many family activities as possible. Involve your children in the planning. Family activities that seem quite ordinary at the moment are often viewed in retrospect as very special and memorable bits of family history. A dad’s ‘date’ with a teenage daughter, a family picnic in the park, or a Sunday excursion for ice cream can provide a meaningful time for being together and sharing as a family.

7. Worship together as a family. Recent studies verify that youth who have strong religious convictions are less likely to drop out of school or engage in delinquent behavior. Shared worship experiences help to strengthen family unity and provide a moral foundation for its members.

8. Don’t provide your children access to alcohol or drugs. Model appropriate behavior regarding alcohol and drugs. Despite peer pressure, the anxieties of adolescence, a youthful desire for sophistication, and media messages that glamorize the use of drugs and alcohol, the family is the most powerful influence on whether a young person will become a substance abuser. Nowhere is the parents’ personal example more critical than in the area of alcohol and drug use.

9. Plan family service projects or civic activities. At the heart of good character is a sense of caring and concern for others. Numerous opportunities for family service projects exist in every community, and even young children can participate. Simple acts like taking food to a sick neighbor, mowing an elderly person’s yard, or collecting outgrown clothes and toys for charity help youth learn the joys of assisting others and develop lifelong habits of service.

10. Read to your children and keep good literature in the home. Great teachers have always used stories to teach, motivate, and inspire, and reading together is an important part of passing the moral legacy of our culture from one generation to another. Children’s questions and comments about the stories offer parents important insights into their children’s thoughts, beliefs, and concerns.

11. Limit your children’s spending money. Help them develop an appreciation for non-material rewards. In today’s consumerist culture, youth could easily come to believe that image – wearing the ‘right’ clothes, driving the ‘right’ car, etc. – represents the path to success and happiness. Parents can make strong statements about what they value by the ways in which they allocate their own resources and how they allow their children to spend the funds entrusted to them.

12. Discuss the holidays and their meanings. Have family celebrations and establish family traditions. . . . Observing holidays and celebrating family traditions not only develop feelings of attachment to and kinship with others, but they also serve as a special kind of glue that binds us together as human beings, as family members, and as citizens.

13. Capitalize on the ‘teachable moment.’ Use situations to spark family discussions on important issues. Some of the most effective character education can occur in the ongoing, everyday life of the family. As parents and children interact with one another and with others outside the home, there are countless situations that can be used to teach valuable lessons about responsibility, empathy, kindness, and compassion.

14. Assign home responsibilities to all family members. Even though it is often easier to clear the table, take out the trash, or load the dishwasher ourselves than to wait for a child to do it, we have an obligation to help children learn to balance their own needs and wishes against those of other family members – and ultimately, other members of society.

15. Set clear expectations for your children and hold them accountable for their actions. Defining reasonable limits and enforcing them appropriately establishes the parents as the moral leaders in the home and provides a sense of security to children and youth. It also lets them know that you care enough about them to want them to be – or to become – people of good character.

16. Keep your children busy in positive activities. Children and youth have remarkable energy levels, and the challenge is to channel that energy into positive activities such as sports, hobbies, music or other forms of the arts, or church or youth groups like the Scouts. Such activities promote altruism, caring, and cooperation and also give children a sense of accomplishment.

17. Learn to say no and mean it. It is natural for children – especially teenagers – to test the limits and challenge their parents’ authority. Despite the child’s protests, a parent’s most loving act is often to stand firm and prohibit the child’s participation in a potentially hurtful activity.

18. Know where your children are, what they are doing, and with whom. Adults need to communicate in countless ways that we care about children and that we expect the best from them, but also that we take seriously our responsibility to establish standards and to monitor, chaperone, and supervise. At the risk of being perceived as ‘old fashioned,’ insist on meeting your children’s friends and their parents.

19. Refuse to cover for your children or make excuses for their inappropriate behavior. Shielding children and youth from the logical consequences of their actions fails to teach them personal responsibility. It also undermines social customs and laws by giving them the impression that they are somehow exempt from the regulations that govern others’ behavior.

20. Know what television shows, videos, and movies your children are watching. While there are some very fine materials available, a proliferation of pornographic and hate-filled information is easily accessible to our youth. By word and example, teach your children responsible viewing habits. If you learn that your child has viewed something objectionable, candidly share your feelings and discuss why the material offends your family’s values.

21. Remember that you are the adult! Children don’t need another buddy, but they desperately need a parent who cares enough to set and enforce appropriate limits for their behavior. Sometimes being able to say, ‘My mom/dad won’t let me’ provides a convenient escape for a youth who really didn’t want to participate in a questionable activity.
An excellent web site for infant/toddler suggestions)

“Crisis in the Village”/ Black Family, Black Church, Rise Up!
A serious measure of inspiration for this proposal came from the reading of, Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities, by another Morehouse man — Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Ph.D. (former president of Morehouse). In that book, Franklin argues that it is critically important that our “anchor institutions” come forward with “strategic thinking and decisive action for positive outcomes” for our village, for our people – especially for our children. Two of those three “anchor institutions” are The Black Family and The Black Church. In that light, this proposal seeks to get The Black Family and The Black Church to come forward, together, to undertake and champion the decisive actions needed for the positive outcomes for our people, in terms of cultivating the character and culture of excellence and success by which we desire to be judged – by ourselves and all others.

There can be no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the heads of households who anchor the families of our communities are fully capable of implementing the Pillars, Principles, Suggestions and Strategies of this proposal – and will do so, if they know they are not working alone; if they know we are of one heart-mind-spirit. In that light, this proposal is calling on the churches of our communities, through the investment of time, talent and treasure, to help develop that oneness of heart-mind-spirit; to help all of our families find the will and the way to become stronger cornerstones of our communities and our culture, and the bringing forth of children who emulate their parents and guardians with character, culture and pro-active racial identity second to none. It dreams of our churches doing all they can, through the powers of courage, compassion and constructive intervention, to see that every one of our families is reached by the Pillars, Principles, Suggestions and Strategies embodied herein. It comes with the vision of ministerial leaders and laity not only preaching them and teaching them, but also organizing frequent seminars and/or home visits by which to broaden and deepen individual and collective understanding and internalization of these vitally important precepts and practices.
Additionally, this proposal reflects inspiration received from the following wisdom and insights:

“Where there is no vision, a people perish.” (Judeo-Christian Wisdom)

“Every phase of an African American child’s life ought to be planned in advance of their birth; and every member of their family-community network involved in maintaining and enforcing that plan for the greatest well-being and development of the child, family and community.” (Contemporary African American scholars)

“A child is not a complete being until he or she has been fully informed and trained in the values, principles and vision of the family-community to which GOD has entrusted them.”
(Ancient African Wisdom, paraphrased)

Dr. King endeavored to send folks home from the “I Have a Dream” March on Washington, to not “wallow in the valley of despair” but knowing that somehow the negative circumstances confronting their lives can and will be changed. Likewise, this proposal, endeavors to rip away the despair that seeks to overwhelm our lives, as desperate circumstances lure far too many of our people – young and not so young – into horrendous patterns of anti-social, genocidal character and culture. Let’s do all we can, in every way we can, to be the millions of feet, hearts, mind and souls that this dream, this vision needs, to dismantle and rip away resignation and despair, to enliven and empower self-determination, excellence and success!

The urgency of the pro-active and assertive responses needed for the transformative implementation of these Pillars and Principles is reflected in one of the conclusions encompassed in Ebony magazine’s recent series on “Saving Our Sons”, as follows:

“If the Black community (parents, elders and others – churches, fraternities, sororities, et al) doesn’t make a concerted effort to start applying these and many other techniques to pull our boys (and girls) out of their emotional crises and help them deal with their feelings, another generation . . . will find themselves tossed into the salivating jaws of the criminal justice system.”

In closing, these words from Mary McLeod-Bethune seem most appropriate:
“For I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single (African American) boy or girl without a chance to prove his (or her) worth.”

This proposal embodies the confidence that the drums referenced by Ms. McLeod-Bethune still beat significantly in the hearts of our people — in YOUR heart, and that YOU will rise up to do all you can, in every way you can, to see that every boy, girl, man or woman of our communities grows to know the fullness of their worth – their character and culture– and great eagerness to be judged accordingly.