Today we celebrate the life of and honor the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. on this very cold winters’ day in New York.
Among his many writings and speeches are the ones that ultimately identified the class system and the power dynamic that underlies systemic inequalities. While the country is now more than ever in the deadly embrace of an entrenched military industrial complex that looks to perpetuate its own income by starting wars, eating up the lions share of our annual budgets, we realize how some of MLKs harder truths about financial inequality were the ones that made him most hated as well because they threatened a status quo. As bad as it looks to you, it looks absolutely perfect to some.
As we have watched a precipitous decline in the average American’s standard of living in the last 40 years, we can now see that the poor are poor not because of some moral failing but because the system is deliberate; designed to keep them there. With robots and other forms of automation preparing to sideswipe the workers of the world in the next five years, MLK’s ideas about a guaranteed annual income seem not only fair and wise, but also pragmatic and prophetic.
Banner photo credit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. locks arms with his aides as he leads a march of several thousands on March 17, 1965 in Montgomery, Ala. (Credit: AP)
Robert Muller testified before Congress this week and no one seems happy. The spin-masters distort his words and his findings to accommodate their own personal narrative…and to continue to distract us from the thieve’s hands in our cupboards across the country.
Corporate Democrats and Corporate Republicans won’t get rid of this guy, but at least it will distract us from the lowest tax rates on the rich in our lifetimes, global warming, gun violence, increased poverty, racist immigrant-bashing policies, increased homeless populations, and a corrupted medical insurance system. So far, these distractions are working splendidly.
Sorry, that’s an unhappy way of welcoming you to BSA Images of the Week! You deserve better!
The news is that summer is in full swing and people are on the streets cooling off in public fountains, dancing, watching outdoor movies on roofs and in parks, seeing theater and music performances, and hopefully hitting Coney Island for a beach splash or a thrill ride.
The streets are being plastered with art. Some with political and social messages, some with a sense of humor, others with an acute sense of popular culture. A few are just plain pretty to look at. Whatever the style, the intention or the placement, what’s important is the fact that it’s happening again with gusto. Artists are out as well, sharing their ideas and their experiments with us, all for free and with permission to touch and photograph.
Here’s our weekly interview with the street, this time featuring Almost Over Keep Smiling, Frederic Edwin Church, Judith Supine, Mattew Hyte, Shepard Fairey, The Postman Art, and Winston Tseng.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated today in the US, and undoubtedly not by everyone. With his words and his bravery and sacrifice as a guide, may we continue to stand up against injustice and the forces of tyranny to build and preserve a just society for everyone everywhere.
It may be a long time, but we’ll get there, if we all do our part.
― Martin Luther King Jr. , April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York
Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection.
As we remember Dr. Martin Luther king and his legacy, we are reminded that each of us has to consider seriously our individual and collective roles as a part of the equation and to fight for what is right, and good, and just, and fair for every man and woman. May his words above inspire us to keep the fight alive and to seize this moment to disempower oppression and tyranny at their first steps, not their 10th or 20th steps.
Here are some pieces of Street Art that honor the words and deeds of Dr. King.
As the U.S. reflects on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today we also acknowledge that his work, and our work, is not done.
This past year has brought more people into the streets to demonstrate across America than in many years, and the signs and slogans can in many cases be interchanged for those used by civil rights marchers half a century earlier.
In multiple cities across the country thousands of citizens have demonstrated on streets, roads, avenues, highways, intersections. They have made signs and chanted and marched multiple days and nights against injustice and many more have tweeted, facebooked, tumbled and texted – originally it was related to police brutality specifically but more largely we have seen an overall critique of a system still corroded and undermined by our history and legacy of racism.
From our jails to our boardrooms to our schools and universities to our media outlets to our halls of government, a system of inequality continues, supported by our own ignorance and our failure to learn and heal that legacy of racism. Every day we see a black president thwarted and insulted and disrespected – not for political motivations simply, but so obviously just because of his race. The level of disrespect for the highest office in government has been unprecendented, debasing us all, even though a majority elected and re-elected President Obama.
But just last week the Miami police department was revealed to be using actual photographs of black men for sniper training practice. A blind spot in our own consciousness that is obvious when revealed, but it’s more often a case of a thousand tiny little cuts that keeps a people down, or at least permanently on the defensive. Of course we can do better.
When it comes to media depictions of people and races, it’s these subtleties that might not be quickly evident until someone culls together many examples so you can see a pattern. In a recent and effective hashtag project that spurred a website by the same name #iftheygunnedmedown questions and examines the bias of new outlets that convict or exonerate a person by the selective use of images alone. If it’s a white guy, then it’s his high school graduation day pic. If it’s a black guy, the photo is from the drunken crazy party afterward.
Street Artist and contemporary muralist Gaia picked up the thread of that discussion and created this new mural from photos posted by people on social media for #iftheygunnedmedown. Each of the dual natures presented give cues that are picked up on by a viewer and used to interpret physical and character traits and a variety of assumptions about the person. Gaia points to the project’s founder, CJ Lawrence, as the original inspiration for the project and quotes him saying, “… I set out to indict the media for its role in how we, as Black people, are portrayed after we are killed”.
The newly completed mural is at the Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and it uses images of Instagrammers whose handles are @bbuckson93 , @cruelyear , @qdotjones and @fullblowndork. As you scan across the handpainted reproductions of personal and family images, obseerve your own perceptions about the person in the frame.
The portraits rise above and are demarcated by symbols and metaphors of the ruins of Persepolis. Of the relevance of the ruins to the project Gaia explains, “The centerpiece is the Cylinder of Cyrus, which is considered by some as the first universal charter on human rights.” The cuneiform inscribed clay cylinder from 6th century BC may not have the impact that an Instragram re-painting does to the average visitor, but it does ground the message in the realization that the march toward rights for all has been very long and there has been much progress – and that there is a long way to go yet.
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”
The streets have always been a powerful venue for everyday men and women to advocate their political views and to be visible, to be heard, to champion and to demand. Today we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and all that it achieved and how we all changed as a result of it, even as we recognize how far yet we have to go for everyone to be treated fairly and the great cost the struggle exacted from many. This march had an impact on the American people like none other and even now the struggle for freedom, equality, and economic justice continues here and around the world as the words of Martin Luther King Jr. remain an inspiration to many.
The Loss Prevention. John Lewis. March On Washington. August 28, 1963. (photo @ Jaime Rojo)
Martin Luther King “I Have A Dream” Speech
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”