On this day 55 years ago, Martin Luther King walked his last march. He was joining a protest by the sanitation workers in Memphis. They were striking for better wages and improved working conditions after two of their workers were crushed by a sanitation truck and their families couldn’t even afford to pay for their funerals. King stopped the march after it started to get violent. He planned a nonviolent protest for April 5. He didn’t live that long.
King was shot in Memphis on April 4, 1968, the day after his famous “Mountaintop” speech. He said, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” This modern-day prophet was violently shot the next day outside room 306 at the Lorraine Motel.
Holy Week 1968 started a few days later with the country in an upheaval. Riots and unrest gripped a fearful nation.
Once again, we enter Holy Week with a nation unglued. The mass shooting yesterday in an affluent neighborhood at a private Christian school in Nashville is devastating and yet only adds to the death toll. As of today, this year 130 mass shootings have taken place, meaning more mass shootings than days this year. At least 57 people have died in 38 mass shootings so far this month. The violence seems never ending and nothing is done.
If I hear one more politician talk about thoughts and prayers, I will walk out into the middle of the street and scream. I feel so helpless. Democratic politicians call for gun reform, but will background checks and waiting periods really stop the proliferation of the guns? Assault weapons need to be banned. Since the ten-year federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) expired in 2004, more deaths have resulted from the use of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Everytown for Gun Safety’s website reports that of all the mass shooting incidents between 2009 and 2018, assault weapons accounted for 25% of deaths and 76% of nonfatal injuries. Only seven states and Washington, D.C. prohibit assault weapons. There are many more evidence-based solutions that can be put in place to reduce gun violence, but until our politicians stand up to the gun lobby and the gun-owners, nothing will be done.
Our 23-year-old neighbor stood on our porch last night after the horrendous school shooting in Nashville and defended his right to own guns. He has seven guns scattered in his room, next door to our house. He said the guns were under his bed and in his drawers. He has a little brother, age 14, who lives in that house. How can his brother feel safe? How can we all feel secure in a nation with unchecked gun owners?
After King’s violent death 55 years ago, Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the 1968 Gun Control Act. This was one of the first major laws that legislated the sale of firearms in the US. Unfortunately, this also led to the modern-day gun lobby that has stymied many gun laws since that time.
I understand that most of us feel powerless to fight for gun protections in this country, but Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” As we enter Holy Week, we must speak up and continue to elect brave lawmakers who are not afraid to stand up for gun controls. Families in Nashville and across this nation are fractured and traumatized as they decide whether to send their children to school today and tomorrow. As King’s nine year old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, said in a 2018 gun control march in D.C., “I have a dream that enough is enough.”
image in my window for the last 5 years since the Parkland shooting…
As I attempt to make more regular blog posts, here’s an update on books and media that matter to me right now.
What I am listening to: Holy Week: The Story of a Revolution Undone hosted by Vann R. Newkirk II, an exploration of the week following MLK’s assassination and how it impacted civil rights and face in our country.
Also listening to: Grammy Award winning Madison Cunningham’s new album, Revealer. “I’m a daughter to the mystery but a servant to strain…”
On repeat: The Highwomen’s Crowded Table…”I want a house with a crowded table…let us take on the world while we’re young and able.”
What I am reading: No Filter: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful by Paulina Porizkova, a collection of essays by the former model about the beauty industry, feminism, loss and aging.
Also reading: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabelle Wilkerson about the unspoken caste system that has shaped America. Just out in paperbook.
What I am watching: Borgen, a Danish political drama about a female prime minister’s rise to power.