Our journey of change

Obama, King and our country

Monday and Tuesday were significant for all Americans, particularly for African-Americans. We saw our first black president take office for his second term — one that holds greater promise of real change in a number of areas that will determine the course of our country’s future, and the world’s.

These changes include the necessity for all politicians to work together so that the “haves” and the “have nots” can give and receive their fair share ... otherwise, our global society will most likely begin a fast descent into economic chaos.

It is as important for these leaders to also meet the rapidly growing crisis of global warming and its concomitant problems snd issues. It was most welcome to hear Barack Obama say America must lead in the transition to sustainable energy resources, after his lukewarm response to the idea during his first four years. In order for this general change to happen, many more people must realize that we are all truly connected in every way — all part of The One — and that the lack of public water in India will eventually take its toll on wealthy landowners in Texas. So people who are in position to help those without the basic necessities and comforts, must begin to do so on a world-wide scale.

By “chance,” Inauguration Day fell this year on the day we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. When Obama took the oath using one of King’s Bibles, it reflected how far our nation has come in terms of rights and roles for blacks. And when the president called for assigning gay rights a prominent place in the wider struggle for equality for all, he likened it to earlier crusades for women’s suffrage and racial equality; saying we must act with “passion and dedication.”

Who can forget King’s incredibly passionate and intelligent speeches against the Vietnam War, for fair treatment of the downtrodden and urging all people to live and work together, regardless of their differences. In my mind and heart, Martin Luther King is the greatest leader this country has ever seen and the greatest world leader since Gandhi, whose commitment to non-violent change King echoed. The Dalai Lama must be mentioned as well. For all three of these men, their unwavering spiritual strength gave them the vision and ability to inspire millions.

Among highlights during the inauguration were the stirring invocation by Medgar Evers’ widow and a performance of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir that was so powerful and beautiful, that I felt I had never experienced anything like it. That same day at an Atlanta church service, they decided to forgo singing “We Shall Overcome” as the swearing in was about to happen, but the crowd protested so that most revered civil rights anthem was heard.

I watched this event on Black Entertainment Television, which lent a special flavor. I also managed to see the last half of an excellent movie on King’s life on the same channel. As Martin planned The March on Washington — and added his support to increasingly violent marches in the South and North — it was clear that he had been a marked man. When he is shot dead in Memphis, the fact that law enforcement agencies were involved comes as no surprise. In fact, his last speech foretold the event — “I may not get there (to the Promised Land) with you.”

I have worried about Obama’s safety since the 2008 campaign, and still do.

BET also ran the entire “Roots” television mini-series, which remains probably the best of its kind. I saw the part when Kunta Kinte is captured in Africa and transported under horrific conditions to America, the middle when he and his descendants try to adapt to their slavery and the end where Chicken George leads his extended family to freedom in Tennessee. As their wagons arrive at the land he had purchased from cock fight winnings, this wily and loving patriarch declares “we are free at last” as King had said on the steps of the Capitol in his most famous speech.

It’s been a long time coming, but we all seem to be a good deal closer to that than ever before.

David Fersh lives in Charlemont.

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