Yesterday morning I sat reading Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
As I read it, I became incredibly moved by its eloquence and the persuasive way it captured history, religion, philosophy, law, and critical race theory to navigate an argument founded on principles understood by the existing power structure so that his points could not be logically thwarted.
The day before I visited the Kerry James Marshall: Mastry exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
In the exhibit of over 100 pieces Marshall posits there are no black masters in art. He used this premise as a mission to include himself as a master by his exploration of themes and techniques used by masters and then extrapolating the concept of blackness to them.
I believe “Mastry” is what Dr. King attempted to do in advancing civil rights. In order to elevate his people, King had to elevate himself, and as such, create a paradigm for for liberating black people in America. Through doing so he could liberate all people from the bounds of limited thinking and tribalism.
Fast forward to 2016. A new civil rights era is in full swing. The aims of the movement vary, the leaders are sparse, and the opponents of complacency, subtly, nuance, overinflation of progress, arrogance, and insecurity of one’s own place in the world run are present.
In walks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. An unsuspecting leader who decided to act on his personal convictions. For two games, Colin Kaepernick’s protest was a silent one. Then, NFL Network’s Steve Wyche posed the question, and “Kap” (as he calls himself) answered.
As we are well aware, responses ran the gambit, and day by day, new people added their voice to the discussion.
One familiar refrain in the criticism included quotes of King, suggesting Dr. King would not approve of Kaepernick.
But it’s not only Kaepernick. It appears King is being used to criticize all voices of dissent, not matter what form they emerge.
In it there is a revisionist history of Dr. King getting on a stage, giving a cute speech on dreaming of unity, getting shot, and getting a holiday for it.
The legacy of King deserves more analysis than that.
Frustrated with a sanitation of Dr. King, I read Dr. King’s letter, and all of the criticisms being heaped on Kaepernick jumped off the page. And it appeared King had an answer, in his own words 53 years ago!
At that moment I begin tweeting passages from the letter addressing specific criticisms, leaving King’s words to speak for themselves.
I hoped to start a discussion on King’s legacy as well as explore what the modern struggle for civil rights look like.
Thousands joined the hashtag #MLKonKap including Kaepernick himself, as well as other NFL players who have participated in demonstrations.
Eventually Twitter noticed and it became one of the top moments on the “Moments” landing page.
However, this discussion cannot be reduced to a “Moment,” nor could many people who were previously unfamiliar to me prior to a viral tweetstorm.
I am bigger than that. The conversation is bigger than that. The work is bigger than that.
I will keep going, in that I will discuss the bigger issues involving sports. The conversation will continue going to educate people. The work will keep going so that we have a fair and just society where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.
Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, on-air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and yogi. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast for his production company 528 Media Group, and host of the Radical Inspiration Podcast. Mr. Pope has over 200+ appearances on air, including international television on BBC and Al Jazeera English; national television on Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera America, WGN Morning News, Fox Business Channel, and Huff Post Live; Top 3 Local Media Markets on Fox, CBS, and NBC; international radio on BBC Radio; national radio on ESPN Radio, Clear Channel Radio, NBC Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio; written and contributed digitally to The Hollywood Reporter, CNBC, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise; and has appeared in other media outlets nationally and internationally. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.
© 2016, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.
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