Rediscovering Lost Values

By Grace Lee Boggs

Michigan Citizen, Jan. 18-24, 2009

Our celebrations of Martin Luther King's birthday in 2009 begin a new chapter in American history. This is in part because they are being held in the same week as the inauguration of Barack Obama, our first African American president.

They are also taking place in a period of unprecedented and inter-related crises in our country and the world, crises that might have been prevented if over the 40 years since MLK's assassination we had been making the radical revolution of values against the giant and inseparable triplets of Racism, Materialism and Militarism that he called for in his 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech.

But better late than never. On Monday, January 19, A REBIRTHING KING, REINAUGURATING AMERICA celebration/ceremony will take place at the All- Souls Unitarian Church in D.C., featuring speakers like Vincent Harding, Rev. James Forbes and Marian Wright Edelman who have kept MLK's call alive.

I was invited to speak but a trip to D.C. at this time is too much for my 93 year old self.

In the DVD I'm sending, I'll be talking primarily to the young people who played such an important role in Obama's "YES WE CAN" campaign.

In February 1954, when MLK was your age, he preached a sermon on " Rediscovering Lost Values" at the historic Second Baptist Church in Detroit.

Still a graduate student, Martin was newly married to Coretta Scott whom his father had only reluctantly accepted as his bride. He was also exploring openings in other cities because he didn't want to be co-pastor of Martin Luther King Srs church in Atlanta.

1954 was a time very much like ours when people all over the world were wrestling with life and death questions of the future, if any, of ourselves and our planet.

World War II had ended in 1945 with the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1948 the cold war with the Soviet Union began. In 1953 the USSR tested a H-bomb, and schoolchildren began practicing hiding under their desks in response to bomb alerts. Meanwhile, Einstein was warning that "Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal." "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

It was under these circumstances that the 25 year old Martin preached his "Lost values" sermon to a responsive Detroit congregation.

"The trouble isn't so much that our scientific genius lags behind, The great problem facing modern man is that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man's soul. We haven't learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we've made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we've failed to make of it a brotherhood. And the great danger facing us today is not so much the atomic bomb that was created by physical science. The real danger confronting civilization today is that the atomic bomb which lies in the hearts and souls of men is capable of exploding into the vilest of hate and into the most damaging selfishness. That's the atomic bomb within the heart and the souls of men we've got to fear today. "If we are to go forward today, we've got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we've left behind. Sometimes it's necessary to go backward in order to go forward."

How do we put the neighbor back into our hoods in our time of economic meltdown, planetary crisis and horrific Mideast wars? How do we become honest, kind, true and loving again?

One way to begin is by joining the urban agricultural/ local foods movement, today's fastest self-developing movement.

Will Allen, the first African American to play on the University of Miami basketball team, summed it up when he received a MacArthur Genius Award for Growing Power, the 2-1/2 acre urban farm he founded in Milwaukee to grow both food and community. "We have to go back to when people shared things and started taking care of each other. That's the only way we will survive. What better way to do it than with food?"

Email Grace