Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham County Jail, 1963:

"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here ... I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative."

Linton Kwesi Johnson's poem "Doun de Road" speaks to this:

In 1975, when my dad was about 39, he sat my brother Timmy and I down in our bedroom, closed the door, and told us about racism and the damage it caused. This happened when Ray, Mark and Derek Nichols moved to Easton. He told Tim and I exactly what Martin Luther King said in his letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963.

It's a room full of fact. You can't walk out.

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