The Widdershins

Mahalia’s dream…

Posted on: August 27, 2013

Morning Widdershins. I hope your dreams last evening were not of yesterday, but were of tomorrow.

MLK looking back...Dreaming has been on my mind of late with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It is also the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation — something too often overlooked.

The way the human brain works, we remember and process in tiny snippets of about 3 seconds. The way we remember Martin Luther King’s speech from that day is the line, “I have a dream.” There’s more to the story.

With the three networks covering the March on Washington, it was the first national exposure of MLK. His entourage of advisors wanted his introduction to be spectacular, but measured. Like anything created by committee, they penned an unimaginative, stem-winder of a speech so dry it was essentially technocratic tender.

MLK was the last of sixteen speakers on that humid, oppressively sweltering August day in Washington.

Ms. Mahalia Jackson was in the VIP section that day — close to the speaker’s dais. She had met MLK at a Baptist Convention and occasionally traveled with him using her enormous talents to help him inspire crowds.

As she listened to his uninspiring prepared remarks, she shouted, “Martin, tell us about the dream!” MLK continued, but Ms.Mahalia Jackson Jackson again insisted, “Tell us about the dream!”

It was at that point Martin Luther King launched into his extemporaneous poetry of “I have a dream.” And thus history was made, lives were changed, and things were never again quite the same.

My point in recounting this story is pretty simple. Without the bravery and emotional intelligence of Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King would have been just another speaker that day. His oratorical skills were olympian, but without the prodding of Ms. Jackson’s unabashed audacity, we would not have recalled the poetry of “being judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

While there are multitudes of wanna-bes to deliver the quintessential political oratory today, there are too few who exhibit the audacity and emotional intelligence of Ms. Jackson. She knew what could move the emotions of a heart and the logic of a head to dance in perfect synchronicity. She knew the essential purity of selfless source credibility. She knew the needs of thirsty souls.

When I look at those who reveled last week in Fifty-seven Thousand little children cut from Head Start or those who boast about cutting 12 million poor from food stamps or those who accept with a shrug the stagnation of the middle class, I don’t hear the piercing intelligence and righteousness of Mahalia Jackson.

What I hear are Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles being paid $40,000 a pop for speeches aggrandizing failed austerity or Jim Demint being paid $1.0 million plus a year for contrived divisive research or Dick Armey basking in the lavishness of an $8.0 million payoff for his hand of hatefulness in the birth of FreedomWorks.

Mahalia Jackson (2)We don’t have those with the heart or the tenacity of a Mahalia Jackson to speak to our heads and our hearts. Wall Street and the One-percenters have made us deaf and unfeeling to the inescapable truth that the greatest indicator of success or failure of a child born today is the zip code of his mother. We have no one who dares tell us science should not frighten us, but give us wings. We have no one who tells us a job is more than a paycheck, but a barometer of one’s self-esteem.

When I hear the “Randian austerians” drone on about bootstrap stories, I am left emotionally and logically saddened. Those of impure hearts and biased motivations are using the one-in-a-million success story to justify foreclosing opportunity to the millions left behind. We can’t forget that the anecdotal is merely incidental. We must remember reality is too often finality for those who are beyond the graces of fate.

In that moment, Mahalia Jackson had the courage to allow her emotional intelligence to speak that day fifty years ago. Think of the world in which we could live if we had that moment of courage each day.

This is an open thread.


6 Responses to "Mahalia’s dream…"

The thing to remember about the EP is that it only freed slaves in the Confederate States, leaving nearly a million enslaved in the US. To wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”

While I’m aware that this will not fit with the usual Lincoln narrative, the wording makes me wonder if this was not done to make individual states go back into the Union.

The absolute last thing I want to do is to send our readers to another blog, but Bob Mann, has an interesting post titled “Behind the Scenes at the 1963 march on Washington. He was a guest on Steve Kornacki’s show Sunday.

those who boast about cutting 12 million poor from food stamps or those who accept with a shrug the stagnation of the middle class,

What kills me about the food stamp reductions is that those who shout and yell about the program costs increasing will absolutely not mention the crappy economy that has yielded that result. It’s not that the govt has increased the criteria for eligibility, it’s the fact that so many people are working less than full time, or that folks have had to take jobs at reduced pay just to get a job.

fuzzy, if you’re around, check your txt msgs.

A beautiful post Prolix. Very moving. Wasn’t Mahalia a gospel singer?

” the greatest indicator of the success or failure of a child today is the zip code of his mother”

I knew that, but to see it in print is chilling. I read about a study last year which found that the notion of class mobility in the U.S. is a myth, and that the majority of people never really move beyond the class into which they were born. Now we have corporate driven, downward mobility.

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