“Yesterday matters–The future must be planned” MLK Day speech by Meredith Coleman McGee

Meredith Coleman McGee, Speaker

Historic Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church, Bogalusa, Louisiana

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Monday, January 16, 2017

There is nothing nowhere on earth like Southern hospitality. Thank you for your hospitality. Bogalusa, Louisiana.

It’s an honor to be here today. I understand this church was used for large gathering during the Civil Right Movement.

The stories of old are lessons for today.

MLK Day is a national holiday because Martin Luther King Jr. was a great leader. He was bold. Bogalusa was bold.

Martin Luther King was born 88 years ago on January 15, 1929.

Be a part of the solution. Cecily Tyson said, “Take your place.” Thank you for holding down the fort!

Rev. Dr. Louis Blake Hathorn’s book Social Justice and Christianity described Martin Luther King as the most powerful Black leader that ever walked the earth in North America.

Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, known by the acronym SCLC, in 1957. Sixty years later it is still producing drum majors for justice.

MLK Day.

My 95-year-old grandmother Beulah Sealey was a voter educator for SCLC. She taught people how to fill out voter registration forms. She led the first lunch counter sit-in in Gadsden, Alabama in 1965. She and a dozen teenage girls were jailed for 11 days. Martin Luther King and Andrew Young visited them in jail.

Remember the adage: the pen is mightier than the sword. It is! Yes sir. Yes ma’am.

Martin Luther King’s speeches were written and recorded. His thoughts were penned in books. Powerful stories inspire new generations to fight battles.

Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy launched an attack on evil forces during the middle of the 20th century. *Evil forces remain among us.

*Dylann Roof is an evil force. I am sure you’ve heard about him. He massacred 9 church goers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was recently sentenced to death. He publicly admitted he has no regrets. He said, “I had to do it.”

Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and others planned every march, every campaign, and every attack against evil. They listened to the voices of the community. Alabama citizens from other parts of the state drove to Montgomery and attended SCLC’s meetings. My grandmother and others from North Alabama were sitting at the table.

Back then, people were working together for a common cause – justice, equality, dignity.

Freedom is life. Bondage is death.

On November 6, 1956 Martin Luther King wrote:

But if physical death is the price some must pay, then nothing could be more Christian

Like Christ!

Martin Luther King knew the risk involved in being a drum major for justice.

Martin Luther King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s words, speeches, and thoughts were written. The pen in mightier than the sword.

You see, one day in another land (India) far away from America, Gandhi was leading a non-violent revolution. He told his countrymen:

Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. Martin Luther King turned 19 that year. Gandhi’s story was written. The written word is powerful. Martin Luther King read about this great Indian freedom fighter.

The biblical story of Moses inspired Nat Turner. The Birth of a Nation was a hard movie to view, but it revealed a lot about of our ugly history.

Like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and many others paid the ultimate price – death– for their race. 

We must remember A.Z. Young, Robert Hicks, Gaye Jenkins, and many others.

Our grandparent’s stories are very important.

My great grandmother Francis was born in 1865. Her daddy – JAP Campbell – had owned her mother during slavery. He educated Grandma Francis. She brought literacy to our family. My great grandfather Ned Meredith signed an X on his marriage licenses. He and his first wife and first set of boys were illiterate. Grandma Francis was Grandpa Ned’s 2nd wife.

Mothers are usually a child’s first teacher. The alphabets, basic math, and a child’s first words should be taught at home beginning at age 3.

Every child must go to school prepared to meet the challenge. Today, anyone can buy books at dollar tree or take their children to library.

I saw a news story this morning on channel 9 about a 4 year old girl who has read over 1,000 books. She has a large vocabulary. Reading comprehension goes a long way.

Don’t let anybody fool you, it’s cool to be smart. Smart people get the good jobs. High paying jobs. Most highly successful people read for pleasure.

Learn your family history too. Ask your grandparents about their childhood, their parents,  and other experiences. Upload your family video to your YouTube page. Now, that is important to preserve.

During the middle of the 20th century, Black men in Bogalusa stood up and told their White employer at the paper mill, “unfair hiring and promotion practices” must change.

When the employers of the paper mill resisted, they were met with resistance.

These are old stories, but local history is very important to understand.

We must understand were we have been. Certainly, a politician should understand the history of laws.

People around here remember when Robert Hicks threw his shotgun over his shoulder to protect himself and his property.

Citizens remember other members of the DEACONS FOR DEFENSE AND JUSTICE.

The DEACONS FOR DEFENSE protected Civil Rights workers.

They protected my uncle James Meredith as he finished the last leg of the Meredith March Against Fear June 26, 1966 with Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, James Farmer, and others.

James Farmer can here, back in the day, to help you. I came here from Jackson, Mississippi to speak to you. We are in this together. This is serious business!

Justice and the progress of our people!

The Meredith March Against Fear was the last massage march during the Civil Rights era.

The youngest nationally known leader’s rallying cry of “Black Power” in Greenwood that Summer gave birth to a new era.

Stokely Carmichael recalled that Martin Luther King *never talked against other leaders. Carmichael said backbiting was not good for the struggle. He said he learned not to talk against leaders of organizations because organization is permanent.

SCLC is still here. The NAACP is still here. The Bogalusa Voters League is still here.  

James Meredith was shot on the second day of his Walk Against Fear in Hernando, Mississippi by a white unemployed man from Memphis. He was the first white man to be sentenced to serve time in Parchman Prison for committing a violent act against a Black man in our state. I believe he served 18 months. Today, James Meredith is 83 years old.

Fifty years ago, our skin color branded us a group, and united us by a common bond of brotherhood.

Today, drugs, gangs, and sometimes greed has divided us.

Chicago is full of division. Chaos is everywhere.

I read that some guards at Angola were recently busted for selling contraband to prisoners. They were fattening their pockets. The payphone companies are fattening their pocket. Angola Prison was once the Angola Plantation. Our state penitentiary Parchman Prison was once the Parchman Planation. *Hard labor, harsh realities, inhuman conditions.

Imprisonment is a form of slavery.

The love of money is the root of all evil. Last year, a Tennessee prisoner penned the evils of contraband smuggling in his novel Death by Association Vol 1 Retaliation Vol 2 Deception. In his story, Green Dots are used like Swiss Accounts.

Green Dots have done a lot of good for participants on the Steve Harvey show. The evil use of Green Dots is another story.

The Voters League is still here getting out the vote, and being a voice for citizens.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Mahalia Jackson encouraged him to share his dream with the world that Summer day, August 28, 1963.

Rev. King dreamed that White America would respect our kind, give us the right to vote, give us a fair wage, treat us with dignity, and allow us the opportunity to live the ‘American Dream.’

Yesterday matters–The future must be planned

You see, 50 years ago, a hung jury could have spared Dylann Roof.

You see, we still have work to do. The American Judicial System is flawed.

Money can pay for good lawyers. Good lawyers can work miracles.

Public Defenders often tell the innocent to plead guilty.

Guilty pleas can strip voting rights and can make one unemployable.

The future must be planned

Every child in this city should know what happened in Bogalusa in the 20th century.

The knowledge of self is the greatest knowledge for any people.

Our history in North America didn’t begin with slave ships which were blessed by Popes.

African heads are not carved in stone in Mexico for nothing.

African sailors navigated to North America long before Columbus.

We don’t need a national holiday to learn. All we got to do is open a book and read it.

Extra! Extra! read all about it. Study to show thyself approval!

Our history begins with the beginning of man. Not with Ham.

We were not cursed. No curse changed our skin black.

The oldest human remains were unearthed in Africa.

Egypt is not from Ethiopia.

Yesterday Matters

Yesterday was Sunday, January 15, 2017. The birthday of MLK.

The future could be Friday when Pres. Barack Obama leaves office and stands to witness the transfer of power to Pres. Elect Donald Trump.

John Lewis is speaking his mind.

Maxine Waters’ CSPAN comments were blocked out. America is divided.  

Fifty years ago, one of our top priorities was the right to vote.

Today, our college age youth are not going to the polls.

The Bogalusa Voters League must continue its voter registration efforts.

The building burned to the ground. But, the organization is the officers and the bylaws. The work will continue.

They might need some help. What about you?

What is your five-year plan?

Write it down. Step-by-step.

Let me tell you! One of my nieces had a plan.

Yes, she did. She planned to become a prenatal NURSE.

You know what happened. Let me tell you.

She waited until she got in the 12th grade to take the ACT.

She made a 19. But the school her great uncle James Meredith risk his to integrate in 1960 changed its policies while she was in high school. She needed a 21 on the ACT to get in NURSING School. Some medical fields in our state require students make a 24.

Policies change. Elected officials make policies. The vote is powerful. The laws and public policies effect every aspect of our lives from the condition of our local library to the availability of books for children enrolled in public schools.

One lady in my hometown told me her daughter and two other girls were sharing the same science textbook and all of them were flunking.

Didn’t we march about that in the 20th century?

Malcolm X said, the vote is more powerful than the dollar bill.

Is it fair to say the struggle continues?

“Hands Up Don’t Shoot” was the rallying cry after Mike Brown was shot to death in the streets of Ferguson.

When Attorney General Eric Holden went to Ferguson and denounced the city’s Debtor’s Prison, municipalities across the country had to shut down their Debtor’s Prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned Debtor’s Prisons in 1974.

Are you serious. Municipalities were breaking federal laws.

My hometown was sued last year. Now if a citizen can’t pay a traffic fine they get to make a payment arrangement rather than go to jail and work off the fine doing community service.

The Affordable Care Act and shutting down debtor’s prison are two significant achievements of the Obama administration.

Even through over 20 million additional Americans have health insurance today the U.S. Senate took the first step to repeal the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare Thursday.

The struggle continues. We need drum majors for JUSTICE.

We must stop the school-to-prison pipe-line.

How? School preparation, give book gifts instead of toys.

How? Give our children chores. Teach them the value of hard work.

How! My uncle proposes we teach every Black male the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule by age five (5).

The Golden Rule (Do until others as you would have them do until you).

The Golden Rule teaches us to have agape love for one another.

Agape love dictates a nurse feed a bedridden patience HOT food.

No, No, Luke warm won’t do. Walk that tray to the microwave.

Agape love dictates children respect their parents, their elders, and authority.

Practice, sacrifice, dedication.

The King of Pop – Michael Jackson – understood that “practice makes perfect”

He used to practice his dance moves until his legs hurt.

His Thriller album has sold over a Billion copies.

 

The Bogalusa Voters League must continue its voter registration efforts.

 

I want to thank Emma Dixon for putting my name in the speaker’s hat.

We are both members of a national multicultural organization called Rural Leadership Development Network which co-sponsored this event.

I want to thank the Bogalusa Voters League for allowing me to speak.

Thank you for coming. I am honored to be standing in this historic church.

I was honored to walk on the ground where our elders stood tall and proud during the 20th century asking for better wages, better schools, and a diverse police department.

I encourage you to support your local leadership.

Finally, my friend. I leave you with two of my favorite quotes of my uncle James Meredith.

You should let no excuse stand in your way.

Life is like a game of chess. You must plan every move.

Yesterday matters–The future must be planned.

Thank you.

——————————-

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