REMEMBER THE PROMISE?BlackNET Intelligence
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[BKNT--BlackNET: REMEMBER THE PROMISE?--OS - Thu 1/20/2005 3:35 AM]
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REMEMBER THE PROMISE?
By William Scott Malone
Editor, NavySEALs.com/BlackNET News
BALTIMORE, MD – The civil rights movement has always really been about economics say the spiritual descendants of Martin Luther King, Jr. And in one of history’s ironic twists, the official celebration of Dr. King’s birthday occasionally falls on Benjamin Franklin’s actual birth date, February 17th.
As one of Dr. King’s remaining political heirs, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pointed out recently at a Johns Hopkins University remembrance, the fulfillment of the economic promise of emancipation that Dr. King had sought before his assassination in 1968 has still to be met. The irony of the birth dates derives from a newly published book about Benjamin Franklin, which portrays the founding father and long-time abolitionist hero as a slave owner whose initial printing house fortune was derived in large measure from classified advertisements for slave trading and escaped slaves.
In other words, it has always been about economic promise.
For the 243 years of abject slavery between the first American slaves and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Rev. Jackson told the 23rd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration in Baltimore last week, African Americans were “issued a promissory note.”
An economic promissory note, said Rev. Jackson, that Dr. King had long labeled “past due.”
“That is not about color or culture, but character.” Jackson told an overflow audience at Johns Hopkins. Rev. Jackson, who was at Dr. King’s side when he was slain in Memphis, recalled Dr. King’s last birthday in 1968. Dr. King held meetings all that day with labor advocates, civil rights leaders, and Hispanic activists about developing a new economic approach to alleviating poverty for all downtrodden Americans. “They brought in a cake and we sang happy birthday,” Rev. Jackson said. “And then we got back to work.”
The colorful and sometimes controversial Rev. Jackson is more noted these days for his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and it’s efforts to hold major corporations to higher standards of accountability on various fairness issues. During his speech, he called for universal heath care, a decent living wage and equal opportunity for Americans of all races, creeds and religions.
The annual King remembrance, conceived and hosted by King family friend Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., has become a twenty-three year tradition at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Dr. Watkins, an associate dean and professor of cardiac surgery at the university’s school of medicine, is most widely known outside of his civil rights work as the pioneer developer of the implantable heart defibrillator, first used in 1980, and currently in use by Vice President Dick Cheney.
In his earlier days, Dr. Watkins had been the first black graduate from Vanderbilt Medical School and in 1978 the first African American chief resident of cardiac surgery at Hopkins. Over the years, Dr. Watkins’ MLK commemoration guest speakers have included a pantheon of civil rights leaders, foreign and domestic: Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King III, Mayor Andrew Young, Harry Belafonte, and poet Maya Angelou.
This year, Dr. Watkins was himself the surprise recipient of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Award, to the delight of his visiting 86-year old mother. Dr. Watkins became suddenly distracted near the end of the ceremonies as his own contributions began to be praised by the chief of the Hopkins Medical Center, Dr. Edward D. Miller, who noted that Watkins had helped change the face of the university since his arrival in 1970 as a surgical intern.
Unfortunately, even the present day economics of remembering the civil rights period have turned sadly ironic. The 1987 multi-award winning documentary chronicle of the civil rights movement, “Eyes on the Prize,” cannot be rebroadcast or reissued on DVD because of expired copyright licenses on stock footage and music employed to evoke the period. The spiritual heirs of the film series’ producer, the late Henry Hampton, can barely even afford to calculate how much it would take to renew all the license agreements with the major networks, film studios, still photo archives and record companies, necessary to “clear” the film series. Most of the original licensing fees were for five years or less, and there were hundreds of them. It is estimated that it will cost at a minimum $500,000.
Perhaps it is indeed always about economics, as Doctors Franklin, King and Watkins have long pointed out, and as the Rev. Jackson continues to remind us.
Scott Malone is a multi-award winning investigative reporter and producer. He is currently the editor of NavySEALs.com and its counter-terrorism newsletter BlackNET. He had the privilege to meet the late Henry Hampton at the 1988 Emmy Awards.
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