This is an article I wrote many years ago on Martin Luther King Jr. day and thought it would be good to re-post it here on Martin Luther King Day. The photo was one that I remember seeing on many friends wall growing up and is on my wall of hero’s in my office. Also if you have never seen the movie “Talk to Me” I recommend it about “Petey” Green. I remember how “Petey” Greene speaking on the radio changed the course of riots in Washington DC over Kings death. How a “nobody” re-spoke Kings message and changed history.
Martin Luther King & the burning of Washington
While at the friends meeting the day before the Martin Luther King Jr’s holiday I remembered my experience as a youth when King was shot. This was a time before I had become truly committed to non-violence. My skin is white and I was raised in Washington DC, where almost all of my school mates skin was black. I remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot as if it was yesterday. One of my class mates stood up and said in rage how angry he was about the white man killing their peaceful leader and that all white men were rotten. I was as angry as he was and agreed (not remembering the color of my own skin). He then turned to me and corrected himself and said not all white people are bad.
They let us out of school early that day (in downtown Washington DC) and I was walking to the bus stop. A gang of boys, coming down the street towards me, said, “look a Honkey, lets get him”, I looked at the gang like a stunned deer. My friends seeing me, standing alone across the street, ran over to me and said, “lets go”. We ran as fast as we could to my bus stop and I got safely on the bus. When I arrived home my mother met me at the door, I could tell she was very scared. She had bags packed as the door and said “Washington is being burned, we may have to leave.” She then stated in a very serious voice, “I want you to understand something that this is not what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and black people are not violent they are just very scared and upset.” She was very supportive of Martin Luther King Jr. and did not want me make a generalization about the riots toward all African Americans. Of course this was funny, in a way, because I was as angry about the death as those rioting. What I did not realize then was I had become racist against white people.
There was another hero of this time period that not many people know of, Pete Green, an African American. He got on the radio and started talking to the people who were burning the city. Openly admitting, in what was called jive, that he had spent time in prison, Pete spoke to the people stating that their action did not honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. He stayed on the radio repeating the same basic message for hours. The burning ended, this man had single handily stopped the violence & burning in Washington through non-violent means. He was applying the words of our hero and leader, proving that Martin Luther King Jr’s message was still alive even though he wasn’t. This had a profound effect on me that I did not truly realize until later in life.
Look out for the ordinary people making an extraordinary difference in your life and community! Take the time to thank them.
Love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Martin Brossman (919) 847-4757
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