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Guest post by Padma Kuppa, of Seeking Shanti @patheos.com
We are living in a time of demonstrations, demonstrations that can potentially lead to a movement, a movement towards peace and justice. According to a good friend, interfaith leader and pastor of a local Presbyterian church here in Southeastern MI, these demonstrations are a throwback to another great movement, that against the Vietnam War. There was great polarization in the USA in the 1960s, between those who wanted peace, and those who wanted to continue US involvement in the war in Vietnam. At this time of great political divides, it seemed appropriate for a few of us to take up the words of Vincent Harding, and a speech he wrote on peace and poverty, race and economics – issues that are as relevant today as they were then, with the country seemingly divided as it was then. As we neared the 50th anniversary of this great speech given by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” many of us in metro Detroit, determined to commemorate it with a 50th anniversary reading on April 2, 2017 at 4 pm. The event is open to all.
This 50th Anniversary Reading of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” will be introduced by Aljosie Aldrich Harding, our distinguished guest at the event from Atlanta, GA. She has been a teacher, librarian, and researcher for the causes of peace and justice all her life. She worked side-by-side with her late husband, Dr. Vincent Harding, who drafted Rev. King’s great speech. That Dr. Harding, a historian, author and scholar was also an activist will come as no surprise: this speech that he wrote was one of the most polarizing speeches ever given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
The speech will be read in 16 parts by 16 Readers, who include former MI State Legislator Rashida Tlaib (now at the Sugar Law Center), Kezia Curtis from the Black Lives Matter movement, Kim Redigan from Michigan Council for Human Rights, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, President of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Sidney Simon of Congregation T’chiya, Donnell White of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP, and the co-leaders of Veterans For Peace Chapter 74.
This event is sponsored by 17 organizations including Peace Action, Swords into Plowshares Peace Center & Gallery, Detroit Central United Methodist Church, the National Council of Elders and Detroit Branch of the NAACP.
The venue is historic – the pulpit the readers will speak from is one where Dr. King preached from several times. The speech itself calls for a revolution of values, to break free from the three-fold illnesses of racism, materialism and militarism, and recognize that “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” This was Rev. King’s first anti-war speech, delivered on April 4, 1967 at New York’s Riverside Church – a year and a day before his assassination.
This video, from an event held on the anniversary in 2016, with audio from the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, will provide viewers a call to action, and the urgency to speak out, to break the silence. I do hope that you will join me this year, on April 2, 2017, either live or via livestream.