Julianne Malveaux: Don’t Misquote Dr. King, Just Change It!

6 Sep

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by Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Bennett College for Women

 

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was anything but an "arrogant twit". Yet Dr. Maya Angelou called it entirely correctly when she said that one of the quotes engraved on the side of the new memorial to Dr. King portrays the man as a braggart, not the humble servant leader that he was. "I was a drum major for justice", the memorial reads. The actual "drum major" speech is a profound speech about the herd instinct that many human beings have, much to their detriment. As part of a herd, we often buy what we can’t afford, put on airs that serve no purpose, and fail to speak up when it is unpopular with the crowd. Dr. King said, "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. Say I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." Maybe that full quote was too long for the slab of stone, but the "if" clause is extremely important to its meaning. Dr. Anglou, a personal friend of Dr. King’s, raises her voice representing so many when she says the out of context quote does not do Dr. King’s message justice.

I am amazed at the glib excuse for editing the quote, because of "space constraints". Find another quote that fits better into the space, instead of mangling one and taking a civil rights icon’s message out of context., changing the meaning, intent, and spirit of the "drum major" speech. I am also bothered at the response that some of the King memorial leaders had for Dr. Angelou. "She didn’t come to meetings," said one, implying that absence is consent. Did she ever get the minutes? Was there a vote? Executive architect Ed Jackson, Jr., says they ran the change by an oversight group, the US Commission of Fine Arts and "they didn’t have a problem with it." I’d like to know whether this group’s major concern is aesthetics or historical accuracy. Dr. Maya Angelou’s principled stance is appropriate.

Many of us may know the correct quote and its context, but many do not. A generation from now, when millions of people from all over the world are coming to visit the monument, will the quote show Dr. King and his message in its full authenticity? This is the only monument on the National Mall that lifts up an African American. It is a tremendous accomplishment. It ought to be correct. I can already hear someone say "don’t sweat the small stuff". A quote out of context is no small thing, especially not when it alters the meaning of the message.

My grandmother is not the only elder who made young’uns cringes when she railed, "If you are going to do something, then do it right." I sure hope the folks who made quote decisions had those kinds of grandmothers. Then they would understand that

Dr. Maya Angelou is simply an advocate for historical accuracy, for Dr. King’s dignity, and for a monument that fully reflects the years of dedication, commitment, and effort that have gone into it. Do it right. Fix the quote. Don’t take Dr. King out of context.

 www.lastwordprod.com.

Last Word Productions, Inc. is a multimedia production company that serves as a vehicle for the work and products of Dr. Julianne Malveaux. For the last 15 years the company has centered its efforts on Dr. Malveaux’s public speaking appearances, her work as a broadcast and print journalist, and also as an author. Currently, Julianne Malveaux is President of Bennett College For Women in Greensboro, North Carolina and author of Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History.

To find more of Dr. Julianne Malveaux’s columns, work and appearances please visit:

www.juliannemalveaux.com and www.lastwordprod.com

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9 Responses to “Julianne Malveaux: Don’t Misquote Dr. King, Just Change It!”

  1. Yourblackresources September 9, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    I agree 100%! It’s absurd that the Honorable Dr. ML K’s words would be twisted, using the excuse of ‘running out of room.’ Considering the magnitude of such a monument, the location and MLK being the only Black in the line up, of course whatever words he spoke should be accurately engraved, accordingly. Not only is the ‘mis-quote’ unprofessional it’s also inconsiderate & immoral, to say the least. But doesn’t it say something about where the US is going? Remember the Florida vote debacle? How crazy was that? How about the real estate investor, Larry Silverstein who bought the world trade center buildings on July 24, 2011 less than 2 months before the 911 event? How timely was that, when you factor in the added insurance policies, the nature of those policies and how Larry Silverstein profited just over 4.5 billion with only a 14 million dollar investment original investment, again in less than 2 months? Oh, and let’s not forget the ‘war profiteers’ who billed the federal gov for 100’s of thousands for ‘leasing 30 Ford Explorers’ that were virtually parked (immobile) in a sand lot next to the most expensive hotel in Iraq in 2003!

    My point is, we have to look at the overall timeline of events the US (gov) has been involved in, especially, since the Florida debacle in 2000, because, in my view, the dots can be connected as to why Dr. King’s quote was not given the ethical approach that it rightfully deserved. A mis-quote, as pointed out by the Honorable Dr. Maya Angelo can be misleading from what Dr. King actually was about and who he fought for. Yes, it should be corrected, immediately! But based on the barrage of reckless behavior manifested over the past 11 years have we been led to believe that now everything is back to normal? Then again, has normalcy ever been a trend in the USA, for Black ppl?

    PEACE

  2. ADRIAN HARRIS OF GRAMBLING STATE UNIVERSITY September 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    HAIL!!! YAHWEH ALYON(LORD MOST HIGH)!!! THOU OF MOST SUPERLATIVE URIM(LIGHT) AND THUMMIN(PERFECTION)!!! HAIL!!!–HAIL!! RAINBOW PEOPLE OF THE GOD MANIFESTED SEPIA SPECTRUM INCREDABLE!!—NOT IN DISRESPECT OF THE AUTHOR OF THIS POST JULIANNE MALVEAUX BUT ON THOUGHTS CONCERNING PARAGRAPH 3, LINE 6; ‘DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF WHEN CONCERING OUR HISTORY. I WISHED SHE NEW IF ANYONE ACTUALLY DEALING WITH THIS GREAT BLACK DID SAY AND DO THIS. BECAUSE THIS PERSON SOULD BE “HUNG” IF HE/SHE WAS BLACK. WITH US DEALING WITH US YOU SWEAT ALL AND EVERY THING. THAT IS AFTER WE INTESIFY OUR PRAYER AND KNOWLEDGE OF OURSELVES AS A VIDUAL. OUR PROBLEM IS, AND GOD KNOWS WE HAVE A “HELL” OF ALOT OF THEM; AS WELL AS INCREDABLE ACTS OF HEAVENLY MIRICLE INDUCED SELF GENERATED ACTS OF AUDACIOUS ASTONISHING ACCOMPLISHEMENT, IS THAT, AFTER ALL SAID IS SAID AND DONE , WE FALL BACK INTO THE CONDITIONING OF NOT TAKEING OURSELVES VERY SERIOUSLY. ANCESTOR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ALONG WITH ALL OUR OTHER ANCESTORS LIVING AND ASCENDED ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN LIGHTLY. GOD MADE THEM A MIRICLE. YES SWEAT ALL OF US, THAT’S THE LEAST WE ARE GOING TO DO. ABBA, WILL HAVE LAST SAY. HE WILL NOT BE MADE A FOOL. LOVE Y’ALL! WE KNOW WE’RE BETTER. KEEP ON!! BYE!!

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