Last weekend, which witnessed several local commemorations of Martin Luther King and his legacy, also saw the entity once castigated as the "military-industrial complex" given a hard time.
The full elaboration of the idea that King was a martyr to far-reaching political and economic ideals that transcended racial equality was expressed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the University of Memphis Friday night. Speaking as the keynote speaker for a conference on "The Obama Phenomenon," the current president's former pastor put it this way:
"And 41 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, many younger people have no idea how long race and political discourse have been a part of the black church agenda. ... No idea why [King] was in Memphis on April 4, 1968. No idea why he stood beside and was fighting for the poor. ... They have no concept of Dr. King's radical break with 'business as usual' when he preached in the pulpit at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, one year to the day before he was gunned down, defining the three-headed demon that black people and that we as Americans were fighting: racism, militarism, and capitalism."
As Wright noted, at the time of King's assassination, he was making preparations for the Poor People's March in Washington, D.C., intended to be the kick-off for a broad campaign against economic inequities and what King saw as the citadels of privilege.
Another visitor to the city, U.S. congressman John Conyers of Michigan, had harsh words Saturday for the economic and military establishments at a town meeting held at Christian Brothers University.
"I don't want anybody going into Afghanistan: Bush or Obama or your mama," said Conyers, who also decried the continued existence of NATO as unnecessary. "Let's go to a full-employment society where everybody who wants to work has a job. Has anybody mentioned that lately? No. They talk about 'let's get the banks back to where they were.' I don't want the financial system back to where it was. I am through with this kind of unregulated capitalism. That's what got us in 1929."
Partisans of the established system could take some heart, however, from Friday night's Candle on the Bluff celebration at the Cannon Center, which ended with the Rev. Kenneth Whalum citing King's admonition for blacks to achieve full equality by owning businesses and generating wealth for their communities.
For more, see Politics, p. 14.