Reflection on MLK’s “Our God is Marching On!”
On Thursday, March 25 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the state capital of Alabama in downtown Montgomery before a crowd of 25,000 people. This moment was the conclusion of the civil rights protest known as the Selma March where nearly 2,000 people marched 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery over three days because the right to vote was being denied to African Americans throughout the south. That day in Montgomery King expressed the pain and triumph of this struggle in the speech known as “Our God is Marching on”. The insights King provided that day are helpful for us as urban educators still fighting the effects of racial injustice in this country.
First, King reminds his listeners that despite great strides the march towards justice continues.
“We are on the move now. Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us.”
“Let us therefore continue our triumphant march to the realization of the American dream… Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.”
“The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”
We can take these words to heart because we know very well that the road to equal and quality education for all children is not a smooth one. King encourages us to keep marching on like the protestors in Selma did in 1965 after being literally beaten and trampled. Bringing justice in any area, including education, will take not just a few well-intentioned individuals. It will take a movement, and more so a movement directed and empowered by God who is able to overcome the sin that permeates through unjust systems.
Second, King provides a vision to which we are marching or rather teaching towards.
“The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that allows judgment to run down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy of brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.”
The marchers of King’s day had a destination and so do we. King gives us a glimpse of what he referred to as “The Beloved Community”. Our vision at MTR of is aligned to King’s. We are not directionless but we too strive for this Biblical idea of “Restored Communities living in dignity and peace”
Finally, like King’s listeners that day in Montgomery, we are left to wonder, “How long will it take?”. How long until we see a kid from Orange Mound, Frayser, Mitchell Heights, Graham Heights, Binghampton, or Alcy Ball receive the same quality of education as a kid from Germantown or Collierville? I leave you with a few of King’s closing remarks from his speech.
“I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.
“How long? Not long, because “no lie can live forever.
“How long? Not long, because “you shall reap what you sow.
“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
How long? Not long”
-Will Stevens, Class of 2015