Mahalia Jackson started it.
Dr. King’s closest confidants and advisors encouraged him not to go Baptist preacher on everyone during his March on Washington speech.
He’d given the “dream” speech already. It would be “trite” and “cliché,” they said.
For most of his speech he stayed on script. But I bet you can’t recall anything Dr. King said up until the part he said, “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama…”
That’s when Mahalia Jackson — one of the greatest gospel singers of all time and who happened to be standing behind him — yelled, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!”
And that’s what he did.
He abandoned the script and told you, me and each generation to come about a promised land in which everybody can be free at last.
Transcending the Noise
Yesterday, you no doubt experienced a surge in content tied to Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy. You may have even participated.
People shared favorite quotes by Dr. King. There were stories about his historic speech. And replays of it. There were stories told by those who walked with him. There were articles on speech-giving, leadership lessons and secrets to his success.
However, I saw one person after another make the same mistake — the mistake Dr. King came close to making that August day in 1963 as he spoke at the Lincoln Memorial.
In a world of noise and sameness, a person’s passion is a powerful story.
And until it’s personal, it’s not powerful.
Instead of sharing a quote, I wish someone told a story about what Dr. King means to them. Or how something he said or did inspired why they do what they do.
I wish I had learned something I didn’t know about someone I follow — a cause dear to them.
Instead, person after person contributed to the noise of MLK Day without transcending it, as Dr. King would have, through the power of narrative.
So I ask you: How has Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired you? What have you learned from his story? What do you stand for? For whom are you willing to be a voice?
Please take a minute and leave a comment. I’m very interested in your story.