I never met Martin Luther King Jr.. I met his father, mother, wife, and children and worked with some of those who were with him at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.
As it happened, I was in graduate school at Memphis State University and in support of the sanitation workers strike that brought Dr. King to Memphis.
I left late the night he was killed heading back to Georgia and remember lines of National Guard vehicles on the Memphis in-bound lane on the express way. The nation was expecting violence and I wanted to be back in Georgia if it happened. I became involved in the Civil Rights Movement while teaching in Alabama in 1969, then moved to North Carolina and then returned to Georgia in 1973. It was then that I began a 30 year involvement in Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a Bodhisattva. He said he was a drum major for justice. This imagery is haunting, like the color barer in the front of a line of troops-the lightening rod. But, it was his April 3, 1968 sermon given the day before he died that demonstrated his living a sermon and not just giving a sermon. Known as the, "'I've Been to the Mountain Top," it was there he spoke of having been to the mountain top and having seen the promise land. Then invoking Moses he voiced..." I may not get there with you."
I use to think that April 4, 1968 changed my life. It did but only along with numerous other moments that took me out of my narrow self. So many people show the way but all cannot or may not see or wish to follow. In our Zen way of life we come to realize that knowing is not actualizing. That living by vow is often being among the few, yet as with Dr. King, we seek to save all beings. In earlier talks he spoke of not saving the black man but the white man, yellow man, and red man too. Just as we are not free if one of us is not, we must celebrate some, but work more, to make where we are every moment the promise fulfilled.
May All Beings Be Free