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January 16, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

How Gil Scott-Heron and Stevie Wonder set up Martin Luther King Day, with audio slideshow.

A review of Scott-Heron's book The Last Holiday. Here is some appropriate music to read this by.
posted by jessamyn (15 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's what I'm talking about.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somehow, years later, it seems that Stevie's effort as the leader of this campaign has been forgotten. But it is something that we should all remember. Just as surely as we should remember 4 April 1968, we should celebrate 15 January. And we should not forget that Stevie remembered.

Thanks for that, gil. A meta-appreciation article - how fitting! And thanks for the post jessamyn!
posted by ianhattwick at 10:11 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some memories of Gil Scott Heron, Jim Carroll, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson.
posted by latkes at 10:21 AM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the comments: Here in Boston Mass... Every year without fail, to accompany Dr King day, there is always the vile, barely veiled racist demeaning of this holiday by the right wing talk radio station WRKO....honestly you have to tune in to this shite it's beyond belief.

Sure enough, I tuned in as I was reading this, and yep. The host is going off about how Obama = MLK Jr, a US apologist and a communist.
posted by not_on_display at 11:09 AM on January 16, 2012


For all the metafilter people of younger generations than Scott-Heron and Wonder, Gil Scott-Heron was an absolute genius whose works are a mother lode remaining for mining . The you tube version of his piece "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" that you want to see is here. Somebody put that together with tender loving care including several clips to illustrate many of Scott-Heron's most obscure references (the white tornado, &c.).

This piece in the New Yorker is a real tear-jerker.
posted by bukvich at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


It is only appropriate that the United States afford Martin Luther King the same stature as Jesus Christ.
posted by Ardiril at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2012


Wow... I am so much enjoying that "appropriate music" link. I'd like to get an mp3 of that to share at the camp....
posted by swlabr at 2:00 PM on January 16, 2012


That was beautiful; thank you so much Jess.

I heard Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech on the way to work this morning. It remains inspiring decades later, apart from the sanitation strike to which it was directed. We hear much talk of courage in the media, but what is courage really? Those sanitation workers had courage. Dr. King had courage. Here Dr. King's parable from that speech describes a courage that many if not most of us find wanting in ourselves upon a truthful examination of ourselves:
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base....

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem -- or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles -- or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

posted by caddis at 2:08 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


One great artist talking about another great artist talking about a great man. WOWSA! For this moment, I am proud to be an American, and wishing hard we had a leader like King today. I thought it might have been Obama a few years ago, but he hasn't panned out. An excellent and very timely reminder that sometimes, we've got to make the damn change ourselves.

RIP MLK & GSH.
posted by smirkette at 2:27 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Found an mp3 of that mix.

posted by swlabr at 2:30 PM on January 16, 2012


I love his comments on race and class. Somewhere in that clip King suggests that white listeners ought to be marching with the revolutionary blacks, not sitting impoverished at home, using race hate as a security blanket to insulate them from their own poverty and mistreatment.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:35 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's some vintage footage of Stevie Wonder singing "Happy Birthday", the song he wrote as an anthem advocating for this holiday. From a wonderful hour long BBC documentary about Stevie and his "Hotter Than July" album.
posted by vverse23 at 3:36 PM on January 16, 2012


swlabr, are you sure about that link? It keeps trying to download a .exe file for me, and there's no way I'm running it.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:57 PM on January 16, 2012


It downloads the MP3 for me. I think you can just right-click on the little asterisk after the player on the Liberator page [or here] and download the file. 75MB MP3, they seem to have made it downloadable.

And yeah that New Yorker article is a total gut punch. My friend James Whetzel made this a few years ago. If you don't have time to listen to an hour+ of music it's a good little pep talk.
posted by jessamyn at 4:05 PM on January 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, jessamyn, that Liberator link works fine for me.

And I realize that I'm very much in denial about Gil Scott Heron. I know he went through some very difficult times, especially in his later years, but every time someone posts such I link, I just always go off and listen to B-Movie.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:30 PM on January 16, 2012


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