Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. turns 90

“Everyone can be great…because anybody can serve”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
National Mall in Washington, DC

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr helped shape how I have shown up in the world. I learned immensely from all that is King – the premise of his quote, “everyone can be great…because anybody can serve” resonated the most. Early adulthood was a time of self-exploration and accepting (inconvenient) truths about myself. Which career interests should I pursue?  I am gay. Should I stop hiding it? Am I good enough?

King’s quote reassured me I can be myself and add value to others’ lives in doing so. I eventually accepted the fact that I do not have to emulate anybody – charismatic friends or wealthy compatriots. Existing comfortably in my own skin was just as acceptable. Granted, I do have moments of self-doubt. King’s teachings alongside healthy support systems among other things keep me from getting stuck on my perceived inadequacy.

King’s legacy is a relatable example of how steadfastness, authenticity, and humility can change the world. What we nowadays call emotional intelligence was one of King’s best qualities – advancing social justice without stooping to the level of white supremacy manifesting as sucker punches at deli counters, church bombings by so-called Christians, and other forms of domestic terrorism.

Larry & I stand in front of MLK Jr.

Given today’s current political affairs, I decided to explore a bit how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched a counterintelligence campaign against King. While his white compatriots terrified African Americans with cross burnings, hangings, employment discrimination, poll taxes, and homicides, the FBI invested time and resources in initiatives “…to neutralize him as an effective civil rights leader.” The word neutralize has two definitions according to Merriam Webster, neither of which are acceptable in the context of the Civil Rights Movement.

For years, I found the rumor of King’s being a philanderer irksome. Discussed in hushed tones, the accusation was my cue to categorize it under humanizing element. Yes, I know he was imperfect. We all are. I convinced my ill-informed mind his greatest flaw was running afoul of monogamy. Wait, what? If true, does it outweigh what he and others had done to acquire civil rights for all citizens? How did Coretta Scott King feel? What did she know?

In composing this blog, I did some surface-level Google searching – unearthing the FBI report above as well as this 2018 Newsweek article. It purports King’s philandering smear was the FBI’s sloppily executed slanderous attempt to delegitimize the civil rights icon’s surging momentum. I also learned Robert Kennedy – Attorney General at the time – approved the wiretapping of King’s phones after he delivered his oft quoted I Have a Dream speech. Bobby Kennedy was unshakably revered, as was his brother President John F. Kennedy, among African Americans.

Wow. Life and progressing through it are complicated.

I am grateful for a life of “stand[ing] as 10,000” because of the work done by King and millions of others before my time. I hope today is commemorated by providing service to others and/or ensuring we give ourselves self-care.

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