Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!


Martin Luther King’s words and acts have planted themselves in our collective psyche. They continue to grow and bear fruit in his influence on our worldview and to loosen the soil of prejudice in even the hardest, driest riverbeds of souls.

His legacy is a mighty river that waters us well, singing through our very souls. That river continues to carry us forward and to sing, deeply, movingly, its own (and our) river song.

I continue to be most inspired by those who live their lives in accordance with the principles of equality, love, and giving that Martin Luther King personifies.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, thank you today and every day!

Grey Hoodie and the Predator

I’m thinking about the parallels between the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Little Red Riding Hood folk tale — only without the bowdlerized ending of the story that we are all familiar with.

A youth in a hood walks through the dangerous places in the world (for Red, the woods, for Trayvon, everywhere) carrying something desirable to eat (Red has a picnic basket with goodies for her grandmother, Trayvon has a bag of skittles) and is accosted by the predator, the big bad wolf. The wolf in our present day story wants the same thing as the wolf in the folktale — he wants to destroy the youth.

In the folktale, Red’s very act of walking through the woods becomes transgressive when she leaves the path to pick some flowers. She also talks to a stranger (the wolf) and tells him where she is going.

In the real world, Trayvon’s very act of walking through a neighborhood’s backyards — off the path — was viewed as transgressive. But really was there anywhere he could walk at night without it being viewed as transgressive? Didn’t he walk daily through his very own twisted and menacing woods — those of
a society that preyed on him whether he strayed from the path or not?

There has been a lot of talk about how Trayvon might have feared that he was being stalked for sexual purposes. Much has been made of the sexual undertones of the Red Riding Hood tale. One more correlation between Red Riding Hood and Grey Hoodie.

The thing that starkly sets the real life events apart from the gruesome events in the folktale and turns it into a horror story is first and foremost because it is real — this really happened. But if this were a story with an ending that wanted to instill hopelessness and horror into the reader — then just let the wolf win. Let the wolf kill the hooded youth and go up against the woodsman with his axe (justice) and the villagers (society and what acts it will sanction) and let the wolf win.

This wolf, Trayvon’s killer, this wolf, if his belly should be cut open, what would we find
inside? The dead grandmother, the personification of all the wolf hates and fears the most? Where is justice, where is the woodsman’s axe, in
this story? In our story the wolf is triumphant and the hooded youth is
dead. The wolf has faced the neighbors and the rescuers and he has been set free to go back out into the forest to prowl again.

I have always been drawn to the stories beneath the stories in folktales and fairy tales, lured by the siren song of deeper meaning and the microcosms of metaphor in the detritus beneath the leaves that litter any given tangled wood in fable and in lore. But here, in this true story in the real world, the leaf litter blows in a wind of politics which is generated by a giant fan  — a machine which is media manipulation — the leaf litter is blown away and the meaning is lost in what is revealed beneath. There is nothing more than bare concrete splattered with brown stains which you know intuitively are pigmented of blood and you think, you think about the scripture in which it is said that the very ground calls out for your brother’s blood. Is Trayvon not my brother? Do I hear the low chant from deep within the ground?

But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! — Genesis 4:10, New Living Translation (2007)

The Smithsonian wants Aretha’s hat

Photo courtesy of Reuters

I love Aretha’s hat!

And I’m not the only one. Blogs have been abuzz over her captivating chapeau ever since the inauguration. There is a group devoted to loving it on Facebook and now, The Smithsonian in D.C. has asked Aretha Franklin if she would part with her (in)famous Luke Song hat to be part of President Obama’s Inaugural display. The display will also include Michelle Obama’s ball gown.

Can she, will she, part with it? She says, “I am considering it. It
would be hard to part with my chapeau since it was such a crowning
moment in history. I would like to smile every time I look back at it
and remember what a great moment it was in American and
African-American history.”

I would have a hard time giving it up too. I would want to pass it down to my daughter and keep it in the family. Maybe she can allow it to be on loan to The Smithsonian?

Wearing Aretha’s hat

                                           Copyright AMH                                         

Want to try on Aretha’s hat? Go to BuzzFeed: Aretha’s hat is everywhere.

Aretha Franklin:

  • Fifteen Grammys, more than any other female performer in history.
  • The youngest individual ever to receive the coveted Kennedy Center Honor.
  • The first female inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  • The woman who sang at the funerals of Martin and Mahalia.
  • The woman whose inaugural hat has brought unparalleled attention to the church hat.

Related links:

NPR reports on a play based on a photo anthology that celebrates the festive tradition of church hats.
The nifty book that the play is based on: Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats.
Learn hat etiquette from Villagehatshop.com.
Here’s how to eat your hat.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

preacher man
tanka with kigo
Annette Marie Hyder

honeyed scorpions
paired with loaves of righteousness
fall forth from his lips

there is fire to drink — and words
like fish feed the multitude

Celebrating his birth

Civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be 80 years old, had he lived past 39.

He is perhaps most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He put aside the written speech that he was reading from and spontaneously delivered his stirring paean to freedom.

Partial video of I Have a Dream speech via YouTube:

Man of the Year for 1963

In the wake of the speech and march, King was named Man of the Year by TIME magazine for 1963.

In 2002, the Library of Congress honored the speech by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry.

You probably already know that he was a contemporary of Ghandi and of Kennedy, and in 1964, he was the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But, did you know that:

According to the Washington Post:

  • His father and grandfather were ministers of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
    Young Martin made his closest childhood friends at Ebenezer’s Sunday
    school and later said the school helped him learn how to get along with
  • His mother was a teacher who taught him to read before he
    started school. He began attending Yonge Street Elementary School when
    he was 5, but he wasn’t supposed to start until he was 6. So the school
    told him to stay home until he was a year older.
  • His mom taught him how to play the piano. He liked playing football and baseball as well.
  • He talked about being a firefighter when he grew up. As a child he visited Fire Station No. 6, the first fire station in Atlanta to be integrated.
  • He was a great student. In fact, he skipped ninth grade.
    And in 11th grade he scored so well on a college entrance exam that he
    skipped 12th grade and went straight to Morehouse College. He was 15 years old.

A day on, not a day off

There’s a focus on “A day on, not a day off” for celebrating Martin Luther King Day. According to The Daily Planet:

The effort has strong leadership from the top. In a press release, Michelle Obama explains:
Dr. King taught us to live a life of service, and he led by example. He once said:

“If you want to be important — wonderful. If you want to be recognized — wonderful. If you want to be great — wonderful. But, recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.”


Copy of speech with audio link at americanrhetoric.com
Martin Luther King resources link at the University of Minnesota
Martin Luther King Wikipedia page
Martin Luther King videos at The History Channel

this poster as part of a Diversity Poster Set, including
Indian People of Minnesota, African Americans in Minnesota, Latinos y
Latinas en Minnesota
and Asians in Minnesota.