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Mahalia

January 16, 2017

One of my all-time favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. scenes, as told in The National Catholic Reporter:

It was a moment of high drama. And the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to find his rhythm.

He stood before the Lincoln Memorial to address some quarter of a million black and white participants in the March on Washington as well as untold millions of television viewers watching a live broadcast.

He was giving the speech he’d written for this day, Aug. 28, 1963. It was formal, sober, high-minded — and more than a bit clunky.

One early line was: “And so today, let us go back to our communities as members of the international association for the advancement of creative dissatisfaction.”

As King came to his line, he seemed to recognize the awkwardness of such polysyllabic phrasing, historian Taylor Branch writes, and decided to speak instead from the heart.

Looking up from his text, he told his listeners:

“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.”

Those on the platform with him knew he had moved off his prepared remarks, and Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer, shouted to him: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!”

He did. And did he ever!

A couple of quick questions, but don’t answer too quickly —

  1. Who’s a Mahalia in your life? If possible, contact them and thank them.
  2. For whom are you a Mahalia, and what might you do today in that role?
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One Comment
  1. Thoughtfully considering.

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