As Sunday’s church service began, our choir surrounded the congregation and our friend Bruce sang the first lines of Alison Krauss’s soulful song, “As I went down to the river the pray, studyin’ about that good ol’ way….”
The rest of the choir and the congregation, now familiar with the song, sang the rest, closing with the song’s final line: “Good Lord, Show me the way!”
I have been saying, not singing, “Good Lord, Show me the way!” all weekend.
Friday morning I attended the King County Bar Association’s Martin Luther King, Jr. luncheon. (No. I’m still not a lawyer. I crashed the party with a couple of my social work classmates and even our professor.)
The featured speaker, Michelle Alexander, wrote the book The New Jim Crow, a book that a friend had recommended to me and that our professor had assigned. Alexander argues that the current penal system and the War on Drugs that puts so many people—especially people of color—in prison, functions like Jim Crow did during Reconstruction.
Alexander began noting that because King is dead, we have polished him to make him a gentler hero that he was. She quoted the poet Karl Wendell Hines, Jr. who said, “Dead men make convenient heroes” (1969), and she called us to recognize the brutality of our current system and to seek for a revolution, not just a reform, in our values: a revolution of values that Martin Luther King, Jr. was calling for at the end of his life.
Then we all stood for the singing of the Black National Anthem:
Lift ev'ry voice and sing,
'Til earth and heaven ring.
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list'ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
"Yes," I thought. "Let us march on."
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.