With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up on January 17th, poet, writer, and literary activist. E. Ethelbert Miller, explores the way that Dr. King’s life and poetic speeches have influenced American poetry.
LOOK AT THAT GIRL
Look at that girl shake that thing,
We can’t all be Martin Luther King.
Copyright © Julian Bond, 1960, all rights reserved
Reflections on April 4, 1968
by Nikki Giovanni
What can I, a poor Black woman, do to destroy america? This
is a question, with appropriate variations, being asked in every
Black heart. There is one answer — I can kill. There is one
compromise — I can protect those who kill. There is one cop-
out — I can encourage others to kill. There are no other ways.
The a**a**ination of Martin Luther King is an act of war.
President johnson, your friendly uncandidate, has declared
war on Black people. He is not making any distinction
between us and negroes. The question — does it have rhythm?
The answer — yes. The response — kill it. They have been
known to shoot at the wind and violate the earth’s gravity for
these very reasons.
Obviously the first step toward peace is the removal of at least
two fingers, and most probably three, from both hands of all
white people. Fingers that are not controlled must be
removed. This is the first step toward a true and lasting peace.
We would also suggest blinding or the removal of at least two
eyes from one of the heads of all albino freaks.
And some honkie asked about the reaction? What do you
people want? Isn’t it enough that you killed him? You want to
tell me how to mourn? You want to determine and qualify how
I, a lover, should respond to the death of my beloved? May he
rest in peace. May his blood choke the life from ten hundred
million whites. May the warriors in the streets go ever forth
into the stores for guns and tv’s, for whatever makes them
happy (for only a happy people make successful Revolution)
and this day begin the Black Revolution.
How can one hundred and fifty policemen allow a man to be
shot? Police were seen coming from the direction of the shots.
And there was no conspiracy? Just as there was no violent
reaction to his death. And no city official regretted his death
but only that it occurred in Memphis. We heard similar
statements from Dallas — this country has too many large
Do not be fooled, Black people. Johnson’s footprints are the
footprints of death. He came in on a death, he is presiding
over a death, and his own death should take him out. Let us
pray for the whole state of Christ’s church.
Zeus has wrestled the Black Madonna and he is down for the
count. Intonations to nadinolia gods and a slain honkie will
not overcome. Let america’s baptism be fire this time. Any
comic book can tell you if you fill a room with combustible
materials then close it up tight it will catch fire. This is a
thirsty fire they have created. It will not be squelched until it
destroys them. Such is the nature of revolution.
America has called itself the promised land — and themselves
God’s chosen people. This is where we come in, Black people.
God’s chosen people have always had to suffer — to endure — to
overcome. We have suffered and america has been rewarded.
This is a foul equation. We must now seek our reward. God
will not love us unless we share with others our suffering.
Precious Lord — Take Our Hands — Lead Us On.
The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Nikki Giovanni
His headstone said
FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST
But death is a slave’s freedom
We seek the freedom of free men
And the construction of a world
Where Martin Luther King could have lived and