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January 27 — Mahalia Jackson

Today’s Bible reading

Yes, all who are incensed against you
    shall be ashamed and disgraced;
those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear,
    I will help you.’  Isaiah 41:11-13

Meditating with Mahalia Jackson

[Mahalia Jackson singing live in Chicago. She was a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mahalia sang this at the march on Washington just before King gave the “I have a dream” speech].

Mahalia Jackson (October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972) was an American gospel singer. She had a powerful contralto voice. Even more, she had a powerful spirit that led people to name her “The Queen of Gospel.” She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was known internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen “golds”—million-sellers.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang in front of 250,000 people “How I Got Over” and “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned.” That was the same event in which Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous I Have a Dream speech. She sang “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at Dr. King’s funeral after he was assassinated in 1968. She sang to crowds at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and was accompanied by “wonderboy preacher” Al Sharpton.

Earlier, in 1956, she met Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Baptist Convention. A few months later, both King and Abernathy contacted her about coming to Montgomery, Alabama, to sing at a rally to raise money for the bus boycott. They also hoped she would inspire the people who were getting discouraged with the boycott. Despite death threats, Jackson agreed to sing in Montgomery. Her concert was on December 6, 1956. By then, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional. In Montgomery, the ruling was not yet put into effect, so the bus boycott continued. There was a good turnout at the concert and they were happy with the amount of money raised. However, when she returned to the Abernathy’s home, it had been bombed. 

Jackson once said: “I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free.” Asked about her choice of gospel music, she said, “It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”

More:

Nice online bio

Suggestions for action

Right now, let yourself be happy. Let the blues be lifted because God is with you.

If you really want to follow Mahalia’s example. Sing. Try it right now. If you are in public, or with someone else in your home, do it anyway. That would be even more like her.

April 4 – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

More thoughts for meditation about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King was a prophet and an apostle.  Born into a pastor’s family in Atlanta, GA.  He grew into a scholar, preacher, and community organizer.  In 1954, when King was 25, he became a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama.  The next year, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and King was mixing it up with many people who became  prominent  leaders in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King is famous for his speeches and published works.  His faith drew tens of thousands into passionate civil engagement through marches, rallies, prayer, worship, and non-violent civil disobedience.  He earned global respect of people from all walks of life.  His application of tactics for non-violence change were acts of transformation rooted in the way of Jesus.

A decade after his public work had begun, King was deeply entrenched in the national movement to legally end state-sponsored racial discrimination perpetrated during the Jim Crow era.  He was key in the formation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King caused controversy in the movement because he was drawn to what he believed were two key issues that needed addressing: ending the Vietnam War and economic rights for Black people.  Many opposed him because his “branching out” weakened chances of getting more effective laws in place to protect other civil liberties and alienated some sympathetic whites – notably elected officials.

On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis when he was 39 years old.  His legacy continues to inspire and urge people to work for Justice.

Quotes:

  • Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
  • Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
  • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  • I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  • I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
  • Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
  • Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

More:

American Experience videos

Hear him for yourself: Anthology

Our celebration of MLK Day.

Suggestions for action

Talk to someone involved in our Compassion Team: Circle of Hope Mobilized for Black Lives Matter. Find out about the ongoing struggle.

Read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindess

Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

Ask God how to apply the tactic of nonviolent transformation in this era of polarized politics and overt racist rhetoric. Is there a way you can make the effort it takes to get over the color line and love?