50 years later and we still wrestle with the why? The jury may still be out as to if we’re actually better as a Nation in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ultimate sacrifice. Dr. King’s legacy has certainly impacted millions of Americans to strive to be better people so perhaps we can mark progress on a scale of the individual, their sphere of influence and Beloved Communities all around this Nation. The Nation itself superimposed upon the vision of Dr. King evinces much work that needs to be done. That’s a simple proposition of looking at the top to see that there’s still not a commitment or concern for the least among us.
A year of political volatility and social upheaval that predates my own birth, 1968 has always loomed large in mind space for many a Gen Xer. Archival footage of James Brown at Boston Garden and touring the neighborhoods of Washington D.C., doing his part to stem unrest in the wake of riotous grieving was televised countless times during my adolescence. Hearing first-hand accounts from teachers, family members and neighbors about how this senseless act of violence perpetrated on Dr. King impacted them not only in ’68 but their worldview moving forward. And the above video… the above video. What an artist, what a lament.
Nina Simone posed questions in this composition that we continue to wrestle with. You truly do have to question why there is an often non-existent needle of progress. Perhaps the Nation is simply a reflection of the place where progress must begin: the heart. Maybe too many hearts and minds are still subscribing to a point view that when unchecked and allowed to hold sway can lead to the demise of a man who preached a message of love, a message of reclamation of one’s birthright, dignity. I’m not a Mathematician but even in my limited understanding of the Artithematic Arts I do understand that Racism and Bigotry are Obtuse. Obtuse meaning that they are at once not right nor straight, an angle that is of no use.
So it begs the question why 50 years after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has the obtuse foundation, floor, load-bearing walls and ceiling of Racism and Bigotry not been summarily removed from the purported House of States United? Perhaps one day they will be, perhaps.
Rest well Dr. King
Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.