More than the dream


Martin Luther King Jr. is in little danger of being forgotten as a charismatic leader and a civil-rights pioneer, but during a Monday night ceremony at Ida Noyes Hall to kick off a week of tribute, Woodlawn’s Bishop Arthur Brazier sought to remind people that King was also a Baptist preacher. His social-justice campaign, Brazier said, encompassed more than the “I have a dream” speech replayed annually in elementary-school classrooms and television documentaries. A resolute theology informed King’s words and actions, a belief in a “divine presence that binds all of life,” said Brazier, who worked closely with King during the civil-rights movement and whose own congregation, the Apostolic Church of God, claims more than 18,000 worshippers at 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue. King insisted “all men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. … That I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be,” Brazier said. In other words, none are free until all are free.

Tracing the “fear, economic competition, and political needs” that spawned the South’s Jim Crow laws in 1838, Brazier warned the Ida Noyes crowd that King’s struggle against a racist social structure “stronger and higher than the Berlin Wall ever could be” remains unfinished. “The strife and despair in this country are a sign that something is still wrong in the heart of America.” Economic inequality continues to widen; social and political disputes divide along racial lines. “I believe we will choose community over chaos,” Brazier said, admonishing his audience to take up the cause of social justice. After all, he said, King’s speeches were healing and loving, but they were also fervent calls to action. “And procrastination,” Brazier said, “is still the thief of time.”

MLK Week continues tonight with an evening of “cross-cultural” music, poetry and spoken word at International House. Tomorrow the University Community Service Center sponsors at day of volunteering called “A Day in the Life of a Child,” and Sunday offers two performances of August Wilson’s Fences. The weeklong celebration concludes Monday with a noon service at Rockefeller Chapel, headlined by University Trustee Valerie Jarrett. (An additional event tied to MLK Week, a panel discussion of race and politics in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is slated for January 19 at the School of Social Service Administration.)


Photo: Bishop Arthur Brazier with The Woodlawn Organization head Leon Finney.

January 13, 2006