Can you imagine a world without heroes, a world without those larger than life figures who capture our hearts our minds and our devotion by their exceptional deeds of courage, selflessness, compassion and empathy? I can’t, can you? Can you imagine a world without the caring and compassionate women and men who parent and nurture us; the brave, inspirational, self sacrificing men and women who fight our wars, defend our lives and property and rescue us from burning buildings. Where would I be without my hero Clarence F. Williams, my larger than life father who encouraged, supported and protected me from not only myself, but from those who would harm me? Where would we all be as people of color if not for social activists and reformers who gave their lives as a down payment on our freedom and liberty?
At no time before have I invested as much time and attention to my heroes as I do now, and the benefits of that investment is the awakening of a consciousness that drives me to share my thoughts on one of my most enduring heroes – Dr. Martin Luther King, philosopher, statesman and patriot. I challenge you to find another writer that has titled and esteemed Dr. King as I have –“Philosopher, Statesman and Patriot,” despite white America’s grudging acceptance of him and black America’s ambivalent pride for him, neither has consciously elevated the King message as a bona fide, authentic philosophy. So why does that matter, why is it so important for Dr. King to be so titled? Some perspective is necessary, google Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what you will find is Baptist Minister, Civil Rights Activist or a similarly related title. What’s wrong with that? Relevance! How relevant will those titles be in the next 20 or 50 years, will readers and researchers grasp the relevance and context of a Baptist Minister and Civil Rights Activist and his National and International impact?
In this writer’s humble opinion Dr. King’s body of work and legacy has transcended Baptist Ministry and Civil Rights Activism in much the same way that Barack Obama’s title as President of the United States transcended his former title as community organizer or for that matter Senator Obama. His record and legacy now reads,“President” Obama and that’s how he will be perceived historically; that’s his legacy, his relevance and his context. Why then shouldn’t Dr. King be contextualized by his peers based on the strategic efficacy and power of his legacy? His literary genius is clearly demonstrated in his“Letter from Birmingham Jail”? That letter according to the King Center represents his Manifesto, his Philosophy of “Constructive Non – Violent Tension,” a four step campaign (1)collection of the facts, to determine whether injustices are still alive (2) Negotiation (3) Self-purification, (4) direct action. Dr. King’s effective use of that tried and proven strategy is the reason that millions of black people at home and abroad enjoy the freedoms we do now.
A Statesman is described as one who does everything for the common good of the people he or she represents. Who can deny Dr. King the title of statesman? Even though he never sought political office, his political activism began to re-shape the white supremacist power structure of his time. This is why he said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “Moreover I am cognizant of the inter relatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Patriotism has been hijacked in recent times by white supremacists, which irrationally use the title as a litmus test for other Americans, though they have sacrificed nothing and continue to demand everything. The patriotism that Dr. King represents is a deep abiding love for his country and a devotion to the ideals of Life, Liberty, Equality and the pursuit of Happiness. His words are unmistakable, as he spoke internationally when receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace, “Non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence, without resorting to violence and oppression.” He went on to say, “Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.” He was speaking to the world in Oslo, Norway after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1964 and at no time did he denounce or deny America’s greatness – that’s real Patriotism.

Have you determined who you heroes are and why? What have you done to honor them? Have you inspired your children to identify their heroes? Is it possible that the systemic apathy in our communities is partly due to the lack of inspiring and heroic figures? How come you haven’t noticed that our heroes are being diminished and disestablished, some through scandal and emasculation, others through attrition. You must understand that at some time they will be maligned, falsely accused, denigrated and often ostracized from the mainstream, but they MUST remain your heroes. Other cultures never abandon their heroes; instead, they validate their actions and explain away their mistakes as mere human flaws, while we condemn our heroes to damnation and hell.Take a look at the other tribes who worship their heroes and are inspired by them; instead of apathy there is engagement and pride, instead of anger there is action and instead of ignorance and conceit, there is enterprise and ownership. If you are determined to claim your rightful share of your birthright, you must reconnect with your tribe, the Romans provided us one of the best examples of the value of their heroes by creating a Pantheon of Heroes – an architectural wonder that celebrated their Gods and Heroes.
I have observed very little effort on our part to truly establish OUR pantheon of heroes, and God knows our people have been heroic, but rather than celebrate them daily, we only do so at designated dates and times like Black history Month. I am committed to celebrating my heroes every day of my life, to do otherwise will be a betrayal of my ancestors. I openly appeal to all black scholars and intellectuals with an interest in the legacy of Dr. King as well as the curators of The King Center – accord our hero the memorable title he deserves; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Philosopher, Statesman & Patriot, this will ensure his legacy into eternity.


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