Do you remember? I mean, do you really remember? Do you remember those days of unrest, of civil disobedience, of water hoses and dogs, of jeers and beatings and murders, and churches bombed with little children inside? Do you remember Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Memphis, in the 1960’s. Do you remember the Edmond Pettus Bridge and what happened there? John Lewis remembers! Do we really remember the way it was back then, in 1968 for example, when Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we honor today, was despised by 75% of the people in this nation? He was shot to death at the age of 39 that year in Memphis, Tennessee. I remember.
Martin Luther King’s favorite hymn was “Precious Lord.” He asked Mahalia Jackson long before he was killed if she would sing that song at his funeral. She did…and I remember…
Precious Lord, take my hand/Lead me on, let me stand/I am tired, I am weak, I am lone/
Though the storm, though the night/Lead me on to the light/Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.
When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near/When my light is almost gone/Hear my cry, hear my call/Hold my hand lest I fall/Take my hand precious Lord lead me home.
When the darkness appears and the night draws near/And the day is past and gone/At the river I stand/Guide my feet, hold my hand/Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.
I remember how King often quoted James Weldon Johnson’s poem/song (the official song of the NAACP) “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The last stanza speaks to me tonight as I remember those yesterdays and ponder our situation in America today. I remember… and I pray…
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.