It’s January 15th. He was born today but I don’t feel like celebrating. Instead, I have entered this day kicking and screaming. I know it’s his party but I can cry if I want to. Arms folded. Keep your invitations, your black- tie events. I don’t have or want or need a dress for this.
What are we dressing up for anyway? Today calls for sackcloth and ashes, not a song of praise but lament. A prophet is dead and we have his death certificate. Yet, we are handing out certificates of recognition, plagues and trophies in his name. We are all patting each other on the back as if we are on his side, as if we would put our life on the line, as if we do not draw the color line around our children and our houses, as if we do not self- segregate while praying for beloved community.
We are heaping on praises in order to cover up the fact that we have buried him. Our tongue- shovels dug deep. Our hands are dirty. Silence or submission, we are unclean. Today is more of a cover up.
Consequently, I don’t want to attend a party or a prayer service or sign up for a community- service project. I don’t want to hold hands. I don’t want to sing. I don’t feel like it.
My mood is not festive. Dead at 39. We are reading his obituary—not birthday cards.
He, like so many others in this country, was a victim of gun violence. Don’t tell me not to politicize his death when America has a history of legislating hate, when I have to use was instead of is for a man who wastrying to do God’s will. And we stopped him.
Just stop it. Because his dream is not our own. We still don’t see it. Our children memorize his speech and we applaud. It is a program, which we will fold up and put in our pocket, leave on the table or tuck in the pew.
So, don’t quote him.
I don’t want to hear his voice. I don’t want see or hear his words. Please stop repeating after him. Don’t tell me what he said.
No more books, I don’t want to read the latest interpretation of his life and ministry. I don’t want to hear what he did and what he, they, we did to him. I don’t want to see his picture. Please don’t draw any more pictures of him.
And if you have them already, take them down or cover them up. He does not belong in our homes. He is not really there anyway. He is buried and we dig him up each year, parade his ghost around and claim him as a patron saint of social justice.
We place all these titles on his shadowy frame: civil rights leader, social justice activist, martyr. We stand around monuments with cake and ice cream, with candles and balloons, with t- shirts and buttons. But I don’t want to celebrate his life; I want to mourn his death.
I don’t want to sing, “Happy birthday to you!”