(TriceEdneyWire.com)—“It is not an overstatement to say that the destiny of the entire human race depends on what is going on in America today. This is a staggering reality to the rest of the world; they must feel like passengers in a supersonic jetliner who are forced to watch helplessly while a passel of drunks, hypes, freaks, and madmen fight for the controls and the pilot’s seat.”—Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, 1968”
As we embark upon the new year of 2018, we step into the 50th anniversary of a year that shook the world, in particular the world of civil rights in the United States.
Perhaps the most momentous of these events are the assassinations of Martín Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Both of these tragic deaths hold personal significance for my family. My parents, civil rights activists, were personally acquainted with the Rev. King. My mother, Sybil Morial, and King were students together at Boston University while she pursued her Masters Degree in education and he his PhD in theology. In her memoir, Witness to Change, she writes of the moment on April 4 when she learned of his death:
I could hardly grasp the words: Martin Luther King has been shot to death in Memphis. Dutch was in the study. I called to him, and he came and stood by me. “Martin has been killed.” I could hardly say the words; I could hardly believe it. Not Martin. Dutch and I watched the gruesome footage in silence.
She recalled the words of his final speech, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. 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.”
He knew it, but we didn’t. And we didn’t understand his death. I was inconsolable…I said to Dutch, “Now that Martin is gone, what will become of the movement?” “It will go on. It must.”