50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Speech given by Rev. Michael L. Pfleger
on April 4, 2018 in Memphis, TN from the Lorraine Motel Balcony
for the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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As Harry Belafonte once said, “Sometimes the good Lord makes himself a person who gets hold of the vision of God and what is possible for the world.

And that vision guides him as he grows and struggles, stumbles and sorrows.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does then even the stars cry out in witness to his vision and the hills and towers will echo his words and deeds. And his witness will live in the hearts of men forever.

That kind of man is dangerous to the sloppy ways of the world.

Because that man loves truth more than his own life.

That kind of man will do what he sees as justice even if the earth seeks to swallow him up. And his deeds will persist in the land forever.

So you look at him, look at him awhile, and be thankful the Lord let such a man touch our lives even, if it were for only a little while.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was such a man.

And because he was, there is and has been a great and aggressive move to water down his message, and to sanitize his words, to make him comfortable to the status quo and acceptable to the American palate.

Yes, there has been an aggressive effort to highjack his very identity.

But we must be clear, that Dr. King’s message was both prophetic and radical, and rooted in the radical message of Jesus Christ, which was his foundation.

Dr. King, was tied to a God of love and justice.

His loyalty was to God and his faith is what summoned him to his activism.

Dr. King was uncompromising in his commitment to eradicate war, racism, and poverty.

And he was ever determined in his quest to tear down the door of justice and opportunity that stood closed to the masses left outside.

Martin Luther King Jr was uncompromising in his charge to subpoena the conscience of America and demand she stand before the seat of morality and face her hypocrisy and make good on the promises that she put down on paper.

Martin Luther King Jr. demanded, as he said at the funeral of the four little girls in Birmingham, that we must not only arrest the person who created the bomb,

But arrest the society that created such a man.

He called us to dismantle the systems that created poverty, racism, and injustice.

He called us, yes, to do acts of charity, but also have the courage to demand justice.

Martin Luther King Jr stood up against hoses and dogs, bullies and bullets, yet never compromised in his commitment to non-violence,

Teaching us that love is still the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of truth and justice.

Martin Luther King Jr challenge us to set aside personal safety and success for the greater good for all human kind and commanded us to live with a sense of otherness.

Martin Luther King Jr, on April 4, 1967, confronted the evil of the Vietnam War encountering the attack and denial of some of his own supporters.

Because he was committed to the world house and reminded us truth has no borders.

Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from the Birmingham jail gave perhaps his harshest criticism for the community of faith, whose silence had made them coconspirators to evil and injustice and made them passive supporters of the status quo.

He challenged them to rise from their beds of apathy, and come out from the comfortability of their padded pews and stained glass windows
And recover from their spiritual laryngitis,

In order to reclaim their moral conscience and recommit themselves to the ministry of the valley.

Yes, Martin Luther King’s ministry was not one of political correctness or safe theology,

Rather he believed that the church should be dangerous to evil and see as its responsibility

To shatter the darkness with light, expose lies with truth, and display the weakness of hate when faced with the power of love.

And because of that 50 years ago, while standing on this balcony, evil and the forces of hate

Sought to stop him – and shut him up.

Only to find out that a bullet could silence his voice, but not his message nor the truth that lived in him.

For that reason I challenge you, brothers and sisters, and myself on this 50th anniversary of his assassination

That we don’t make the mistake America would have us to make,

And that is to gather here, and places around the world,

To simply remember Dr. King and relegate his life to some nostalgic or historic event and then continue with business as usual.

Because if we do, then I believe we become the present day co-conspirators of his assassination

For the worst injustice we can do to Dr. King is to simply remember him.

But if we indeed want to honor Martin Luther King Jr then we must be willing to pick up his mantle, accept his prophetic call, and continue his uncompromising mission.

We must preach the sermon he never got a chance to preach and remind America she may indeed go to hell if she does not repent for the evil injustice and abandonment to the poor.

For America has too long reneged on her promise to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all of her citizens and risks being sent to hell by the very God she claims to honor.

Brothers and sisters we live in a day where the chains of injustice continue to hold masses of brothers and sisters in captivity.

We live in a day where morality has been downgraded and we are experiencing a spiritual black out.

We live in a day where truth has been tucked away in the closet, and hate and supremacy and entitlement has been given new breath by a president who has made them his friends.

And while confederate flags may have been lowered, their spirit yet fly high and strong.

We live in a day where religion has been high jacked and government has become dysfunctional.

Our children live in fear of a bullet in a country who has a love affair with guns and chosen blood money over our children’s blood,

A country where the quality of education yet depends on your zip code and violence has become an acceptable norm,

And yes, where black lives still don’t matter,

And masses of brothers and sisters crawl under viaducts to find rest and search through garbage cans to find food.

Yes, we live in a country where the cries of sanitation workers 50 years ago are still the cries of masses of people across America who are either unemployed or working minimum wage jobs holding them captive by the chains of poverty, not allowing mothers or fathers to take care of themselves or their families.

Yes, brothers and sisters the question for you and I today is whether we will rise up to the challenge before us

And push the hand of this midnight hour to the dawn of a new day and dedicate ourselves, like Martin, to the suffering and alienated of our society.

The question is will we wake up our outrage at the disparities and unequal playing fields that have become an acceptable norm and replace our cynicism with hope, and our fear with faith?

Will we purpose in our hearts to take the venom of hate out of the blood stream of America’s veins and give her a transfusion with the blood of truth, justice, love, and righteousness?

Will we commit ourselves to holding American accountable to her promises and give her back her soul?

Or will we be co assassins to Martin’s assassination by our silence and safeness.

Brothers and sisters in the name of Martin Luther King Jr, and in the name of the God he served,
I challenge you and myself to have a divine dissatisfaction within us that causes us to make the world uncomfortable with injustice,

And makes us courageous enough to bear the wounds of redemptive suffering and committed sacrifice.

Because we believe that light is still more powerful than darkness, love is still more powerful than hate, hope is still more powerful than hopelessness, peace is still more powerful that violence, and truth is still more powerful than lies.

Many of those gathered here today may not have been at Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham or Memphis 50 years ago,

But we are here now.

This is our time,

This is our opportunity,

Martin’s dream is in our hands.

And we will be accountable by generations yet unborn and by the God who places us here for such a time as this.

How will Martin see us in the days to come?

Will we be the drum majors who continue his legacy?

Or the co assassins who simply remember him.

The answer to that question will demonstrate how much we truly honor and love Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

God help us.

Father Michael Pfleger Keynote Speech: MLK Celebration 2017

Father Michael Pfleger at the King Center's 49th Annual Commemorative Service for Martin Luther King, Jr., Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

Keynote Address by Father Michael Pfleger from the King Center's 49th Annual Commemorative Service for Martin Luther King, Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia 

Eulogy for Tyshawn Lee

From the Homegoing Service for Tyshawn Lee on November 10, 2015

by Rev. Michael L. Pfleger, Senior Pastor, The Faith Community of Saint Sabina

Carla, Pierre, Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles, family, to the community.

This morning we meet at the uncomfortable intersection of pain and anger. An intersection that we have met for too often at. An intersection that seeks to paralyze us, hold us up, and lock us into our pain and our anger. There are some that like to stand up and say that 'this is an act of God.' Well, I aint one of them. This is not an act of God. This is the face and the reality of evil. This is evil right in our face.

We meet at this intersection, because Tyshawn, just like so many before him, Amari Brown, Antonio Smith, Alia Shell, Tamiya Adams, Chastity Turner, and countless others. Tyshawn was not a child in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tyshawn was on his way to play basketball, at the park down the street from his grandmother's house. Our children have a right to walk our streets, our children have a right to play in the park, our children have a right to sit on their porch, our children have a right to expect to be safe wherever they are in the city of Chicago. Our children deserve that.

Tyshawn was not in the wrong place, the murderer, the executioner, the assaassin, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tyshawn was doing what any child has a right to do, be a child.

Tyshawn, like so many of our children, are victims and they're martyrs of a society that has lost its conscience, We've lost our conscience Chicago. And that's why its so important, that although we meet at this intersection of pain and anger, that we decide not to park here. We decide to make a choice to procliam that this is not the end of the journey.

We must, Chicago, find the killer of Tyshawn. We must catch each individual who stoops so low, that it is almost unspeakable to comprehend. We must lock up any individual who seeks, by his or her horrific actions, to create a new low normal. A normal which used to be beyond street code or prison code, that you would not tolerate the killing of children. This used to be a value, in our society. WE must lock up anybody, and I hate the prisons, but there are consequences when you make our children targets of some murdering coward. And that's what you are, when you hurt children. You're a coward. You're a punk.

We must challenge a community of individuals where fear and silence protect, provide, and shelter such criminals. Code of silence is real. I get that. It's real, not just in the streets, it's real in the neighbirhood, it's real in law enforcemnt, it's real in the church, it's real in politicians, it's real in Fox Lake, where we send in emergency resources from the government to come in and find a murderer of a guy who killed himself but where are the resources to find the murderers of our children on the southside and westside of Chicago? Bring in federal resources! Our children are just as important as a cop in Fox Lake!

We must challenge individuals to rise out that place of fear. As real as it is. Because, sisters and brothers, we are lost if we begin to live and get comfortable in a day where fear trumps consciousness. Sonething inside of us has to rise above the emotions trying to keep us captured and say 'Enough. I will not be quiet.

Yes, we must find the coward and the assassain. But we also have to have the courage to confront the system and the society that produces such a murderer. We have to have the courage to look at the roots of the murderers that live in Chicago, and across this nation, that give birth to this violence that is holding communities in fear and causing our children to wonder not where they are going to be or what they are going to be when they grow up. No child should ever wonder if his future is going to be snatched from him.

WE have to have the courage to confront the sins of America. I'm sick and tired of spending billions of dollars overseas, and we don't have a damn penny for here in Chicago. I'm sick of it. We've got to confront the sins of America where we have double-digit unemployment in our neighborhoods. I don't want to hear nightly news say 5.1% unemployment in America, because to hear you say that you tell me I live in Auburn Gresham, we're not part of America. Englewood is not part of America, Lawndale is not part of America, because we don't have 5% unemployment, we have double-digit unemploment, and if we're part of America then treat us like the rest of America.

We've got to confront failed education systems, and lack of options and opportunities. We've got to confront poverty and racism. A perverted entertainment industry that shells out money, and Mark we talked about this, that pays kids to do their dirty work. The sonys, the Universals, the Interscopes, you pigs! Pimping our children for your money. Enough!

We've got to have the courage to look at the broken bridge between law enforcement and community, and we both have got work to do on both sides.

We've got to confront the system that is raping the poor in America and Illinois. How dare you state of Illinois govenor, rob every program in our communities of employment and help, and programs of child-care, and programs of earn-fare, and programs of link card. You're not going to take away money and balance your budget on the poor.

WE have to have the courage to confront a gun industry and the NRA whose running to the bank while blood runs (in) our streets. And you live in your gated-communities and your children are safe.

WE must have the courage to look within ourselves, sisters and brothers, to our homes, our blocks, our nighborhoods, our churhces, where have we failed, all of us? Where have we failed to create homes, and blocks, and churches, and communities, and neighborhoods to give our children a chance.

We've got to put back in place safety nets. We can't speak in churches about your destiny, your destiny, your destiny and not get out of the pulpit to change the streets that allow a child to reach his or her destiny. If you are going to preach about it, make sure the streets allow children to reach it.

Yes, we've got to arrest the killer of Tyshawn, but we also got to have the courage to arrest a society that has produced a killer like this one.

Sisters and brothers, we must also decide that although this act of evil may have brought us together, Pierre and Carla and family, to this horrible intersection of pain and anger, we will not, Carla, we will not, Pierre, we're not going to park in this intersction. We must decide as a community, we refuse to allow Tyshawn's life to be defined by a moment on a Monday afternoon, November 2nd. That's not who Tyshawn is. Tyshawn had too much life in him, he had too much good in him to be defined by an act of evil. You won't define Tyshawn, we know Tyshawn, his schoolmates know Tyshawn, his faculty know Tyshawn.

Tyshawn's days may have been short, but his life and his imprint was long. Tyshawn loved life. He was smart. He was smart, he was loving, he was caring. He loved playing video games, and teaching his cousin's how to play games. Tyshawn was technilogically savvy, I wish I could have gotten some help from him because I'm stupid. He was computer savvy, who taught his mother how to set-up her DVD. 'And a child shall lead them.' Tyshawn was funny. Tyshawn loved to dress up. Tyshawn loved to go to school, and Tyshawn was loved by his classmates and his school. He was loved. He was loved, y'all didn't hear me, he was loved by his school.

Tyshawn loved basketball. He dreamed of playing in the NBA. Yes, as difficult as it may be, we must not let this act of violence define this young boy. We must never allow this act fo violence to hold us hostage, we must never allow this act of violence to rob us of our memories, and our smiles, and our laughter. For the great young man he was, the smiles, the laughter, the joy, the good kid he was. Get on your feet and give Tyshawn the kind of support so he knows we love him.

The reason we can't park here, Carla, on this street of pain and anger is because death for the believer is never a final stop. Death, for the believer, is never an end. Death for the believer is not a closing statement, a benediction. Death is but a stop along the journey of life, on the way to eternal life in Jesus Christ who took the bottom out of our grave. And promised us lif everlasting. The Bible reminds us that the Believer doesn't mourn like the world, because the believer knows something the world doesnt know, that death, no matter the age or the circumstance can never put a period on a life, all death can do is put a comma on the life. And the fact remains, because death doesn't put the period on life, Tyshawn lives. Tyshawn lives! Tyshawn lives! He lives because Jesus lives. Jesus got up from the grave and he brought us up with him. Tyshawn lives because Jesus lives.

So Tyshawn, thank-you. Thank-you for the joy you showed us. Thank-you for the love you showed us. Thank-you for the lessons you taught us adults. Your life may have been small in quantity, but it was large in quality.

Tyshawn, you not only touched the lives of your family, your classmates, and your friends. But this last week, Tyshawn, you touched a nation, the United States of America, and called her to look at herself and deal with herself. A nine-year old boy made America stand still.

I pray, I pray that we will not just come here and mourn a baby snatched from us. But I pray from my heart that it will propel us to a movement of change. Death may have been what brought us together, but it will be our commitment to life and to love, and to peace, and to justice, that must move us forward to transform not just this neighborhood but this city and this country and this world. Because you see no one, not a politician, not a preacher, not an activist, not a resident, nobody can say they love Tyshawn and not do something to change the society that brings us here today. Nobody has the right to bring up his name without making a change on your block, in your house, in your neighborhood, in your city.

So, Tyshawn enjoy the place that God has prepared for you since the beginning of all time. Bring your smile to heaven, and make it a little brighter. Bring your laughter to heaven, and make it a little more joy-filled. Bring your technology to heaven, maybe you can teach some of them old saints how to do a computer.

Tyshawn, I know you loved basketball and you wanted to play in the NBA. But there is a new uniform for you to wear today, its called the robe of Victory, its been washed in the blood of the lamb.

Tyshawn, step onto a new court that has been prepared for you. Its not the court of Dawes Park, but its the court that has been paved in gold, and hear, hear the cheers of all the fans standing in ovation, shouting and clapping for you Tyshawn, its called the cloud of witnesses. And Tyshawn when you get there give a high-five to the team thats standing on the court waiting for you. Shooting guard, Jordan Davis. Small Forward, Tamir Rice. Power Forward, Tayvon Martin. Center, Blair Holt. Point Guard, Michael Brown. And look there is Terrell Bosley playing the drums. And listen there is Hadiyyah Pendleton, Rakia Boyd, and the four little girls of Birmingham, they're cheerleading for you Tyshawn. And look over there, there is the coach, look at the coach, it's Emmett Till. Emmett Till is waiving you on the court. Yea, Tyshawn step up in the court. Play ball, play ball, play ball! This aint the end. We'll see ya in the playoffs!

"I want to go home" Renisha McBride by Father Michael Pfleger at The Riverside Church

Friday, February 20, 2015  at The Riverside Church in the City of New York
Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks
Similar to the "Seven Last Words of Jesus" traditionally preached on Good Friday, The Riverside Church convened a "Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks" service with a focus on the final words uttered by seven black people slain by police, security personnel, or vigilantes. These words will be the preaching "texts" for sermons on Eric Garner ("I Can't Breathe”), Renisha McBride ("I Want to Go Home”), and Michael Brown ("Don't Shoot!”), among others.

King's Day Transcript

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service

Monday, January 20, 2003 at 10:00 a.m.
Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia