By M. L. King JR.
King said our problem is not to be rid of fear, but rather harness and master it. It can be mastered by the following ways :
- We must unflinchingly face our fears and honsetly ask ourselves why we are afraid. This confrontation will, to some measure, grant us power.
- We can master fear through one of the supreme virtues known to man: Courage. Courage and cowardice are anthithetical. Courage is an inner resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations; cowardice is a submissive surrender to circumstance: Courage breeds reative self-affirmation; cowardice produces destructive self-abnegation . Courage faces fear and hereby masters it; cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it. Couragenous men never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men, overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dykes of courgare to hold back the flood of fear.
- Fear is mastered through love. The New Testament affirms, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear". Once helpless child, the Negro has now grown politically, culturally, and economically. Many white men fear retaliation. The Negro must show them that they have nothing to fear , for the Negro forgives and is willing to forget the past. The Negro must convince the white man that he seeks justice for both himself and the white man. A mass movement exercising love and nonviolence and demonstrating power under disipline should convince the white community that were such a movement to obtain strength its power would be used creatively and not vengefully.
- Fear is mastered through faith. King wrote: "One of the most dedicated participants in the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, was an elderly Negro whom we affectionately called Mother Pollard. Although poverty-stricken and uneducated, she was amazingly intelligent and possessed a deep understanding of the meaning of the movement. After having walked for several weeks, she was asked if she were tired. With ungrammatical profundity, she answered, "My feet are tired, but my soul is rested." On a particular Monday evening, following a tension-packed week which included being arrested and receiving numerous threatening telephone calls, I spoke at a mass meeting. I attempted to convey an overt impression of strength and courage, although I was inwardly depressed and fear-stricken. At the end of the meeting, Mother Pollard came to the front of the church and said, "Come here, son." I immediately went to her and hugged her affectionately. "Something is wrong with you, "She said. "You didnít talk strong tonight." Seeking further to disguise my fear, I retorted, "oh, no, Mother Pollard, nothing is wrong. I am feeling as fine as ever." But her insight was discerning. "Now you canít fool me," she said. "I know something is wrong. Is it that we ainít doing things to please you? Or is it taht the white folks is bothering you? "Before I could respond, she looked directly into my eyes and said, "I donít told you we is with you all the way. "Then her face became radiant and she said in words of quiet certainty, "But even if we ainít with you, Godís gonna take care of you. "As she spoke these consoling words, everything in me quivered and quickened with the pulsing tremor of raw energy. Since that dreary night in 1956, Mother Pollard has passed on to glory and I have known very few quiet days. I have been tortured without and tormented within by the raging fires of tribulation. I have been forced to muster what strength and courage I have to withstand howling winds of pain and jostling storms of adversity. But as the year have unfolded the eloquently simple words of Mother Pollard have come back again and again to give light and peace and guidance to my troubled soul. "Godís gonna take care of you." This faith transforms the whirlwind of despair into a warm and reviving breeze of hope. The words of a motto which a generation ago were commonly found on the wall in the homes of devout persons need to be etched on our hearts:
Fear knocked at the door,
There was no one there.
King was a leader who could turn protest into a crusade; turn local conflicts into moral issues of nationwide concern; appeal to the consciences of white Americans. He was a leader in mid passage. He regarded himself as a "drum major" for justice, peace and righteousness. A sample of the pledge signed by volunteers can be seen in the box.
A commemorative stamp in honour of King was issued on his 50th birth anniversary, January 15, 1979. President Reagan signed a law establishing the third Monday of each January as a national hoilday to mark the birthday of the man who "changed America forever." It is an honour America has earlier bestowed only Jesus, Columbus, Washington and Lincoln.
Commandments for the Volunteers
(To young and old; rich and poor, Dr. King and his aids emphasised the following Ten Commandments)
I HEREBY PLEDGE MYSELF - MY PERSON AND BODY - TO THE NONVIOLENT MOVEMENT. THEREFORE I WILL KEEP THE FOLLOWING TEN COMMANDMENTS :
- MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
- REMEMBER always that the non-violent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and re- conciliation-- not victory.
- WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.
- PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free
- SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all man might be free.
- OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
- SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.
- REFRAIN from the violence of first, tongue, or heart.
- STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
- FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.
Besides demonstrations, I could also help the movement by : (circle the proper items)
Run errands, Drive my car, Fix food for volunteers, Clerical work, Make phone calls, Answer phones, Mimeograph, Type, Print signs, Distribute leaflets
Source : Coretta Scott King. The Words of Martin Luther King (Great Britain: Collins Fount Paperback, 1984) p. 74.