Yesterday, April 4th, 2011, was the unfortunate anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This brilliant man was taken from all of us, his wife Mrs. Coretta Scott King, his children Yolanda, Dexter, Martin III and Bernice, on this fateful day back in 1968. Taken out of fear.
His words, likeness and image, the world over were that of the peacemaker, but others, in small misguided spaces and places intentionally misrepresented his intent and desire for peace, love and prosperity, for all of us. They also did this out of fear.
When Dr. King was killed, he had just turned himself towards quite possibly his most important work ever — that of eradicating poverty (Dr. King was about destroying the evils of racism, war and poverty). Dr. King called it The Poor People’s Campaign. It was to be this final chapter of his work which brought him to Memphis, and sadly he never made it to his first march or the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C.
My personal hero and mentor, Ambassador Andrew Young, the senior aide and strategist to Dr. King during the civil rights movement, was in Memphis over this weekend and yesterday, regretfully but honorably, speaking on the fateful anniversary where 40 plus years ago he witnessed his dear friend gunned down, right beside him. Right…beside him. I could hear the pain in my hero’s voice when we spoke on Sunday. I knew, unfortunately, that there was nothing really I could do or say to make it better.
My heart and soul goes out to Dr. King’s children, who endure this remembrance and memory right along with the world, every year of their lives. To the world Dr. King was a world hero and moral leader: a prophet even. But to them he was also, well, just dad.
Today the King kids, and Andrew Young, salute their father and friend in the most honorable way possible — most of them live a rich life of service and servant leadership, always giving to others. I have experienced their incredibly giving spirits myself.
And so, in some ways, in these days, and even though we recognize this tragic day, Dr. King is still alive and with us. All of us. His spirit burns deep within ours. His energy and vision, helps to guide and inform my own, for instance.
Rainbows only follow storms. You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.
John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc., author of Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability.