Remembering the Life and Times of Dr. Martin Luther King

by Ari Schonbrun

 Remembering the Life and Times of Dr. Martin Luther King




A story about the great Dr. Martin Luther King, the letter he wrote to eight white clergymen and the issues King opened, and the lessons we can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King.

Episode Transcription:

(Intro plays)

Ari: Welcome to Whispers And Brick’s. My name is Ari Schonbrun. And I’m your host. Today we’re going to do something a little bit different. Back in December, I was invited by the temple dental school to give a talk on Martin Luther King. And I felt very honored. Dr. King was an amazing man. And I was very honored, they asked me to speak about him. And they specifically asked me to speak about not as I Have a Dream speech, but more about his letter that he wrote when he was in an Alabama prison. And he wrote a letter to eight white clergymen who were against what he was trying to do in Alabama, peaceful protests, etc. So I want to give you a little bit of that talk that I did back then, I think it’s really, really important, especially in what’s going on in the world today. So I was asked to basically remember the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King. And to be honest, I learned early on that you may not like everybody you come across, and you’re certainly not going to be liked by everybody that you come across. But we live in a society and as I tell my children all the time, in a society you have to learn to get along as an Orthodox Jew. Early on in my career, I had my own issues being harassed because of my religious beliefs, getting grief because I’d take time off my religious holidays actually losing a job because I was a Jew, not getting the job because I was a Jew. I was just a child during the 60s. But I remember watching on TV as the Jews were the ones who were marching with Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement. Now, I’m not here to compare the persecution of the Jews with that of the persecution, the African Americans, because at the end of the day, all persecution is wrong and should never be tolerated. Now in the 60s, nobody knew this better than Dr. King. When he was in prison in Alabama. In April of 1962. He wrote a letter to a clergyman who publicly condemned his actions in Alabama. Now he was invited to Alabama by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help organize a direct action campaign against the racial injustice in the city. King felt that he had no choice given the systemic racism in Birmingham. He points to segregation, police brutality, mistreatment in the courts, unsolved bombings of black homes and churches. It was these conditions that made non violent protests necessary. Now he had tried to negotiate with the Birmingham community leaders to change things. They retorted that he should wait for desegregation to happen on its own king learned the hard way that Wait, man never when it came to civil rights. King has protesters were arrested for breaking laws. As was pointed out by the clergyman, however, king felt that those laws were unjust and they had a moral obligation not to follow those laws. King established that segregation is an immoral and therefore an unjust law. In this context, King establishes the difference between ordinary crime and civil disobedience. Civil disobedience by its nature is law breaking and King and his protesters allowed themselves to be arrested, so as to bring to light the unjust laws. Notice they were agreed to be arrested, but they didn’t fight with the police. They didn’t attack the police or anything like that. They were doing things the way they thought the right way to do it. In other words, peaceful protest. Now, we have recently gone through that with the government shutdown of businesses during this time of COVID. Even after these businesses have been complying with the law that they were still shut down. Many small business owners were fed up with the injustices and defying the law. They opened their bars and restaurants because they needed to feed their families. what they realized was that the government didn’t care as they ultimately arrested these small business owners when the protests are described as extreme during kings time, King argues that they fall somewhere in between African Americans who are complacent with no will to fight for their freedom and the black nationalist groups who are consumed by bitterness and hatred of whites. Take a minute now and think about the past year 2020. Were there injustice is done, for sure. What was the outcome? Was it peaceful demonstrations? No, it was rioting. It was looting. It was burning cities down to the ground attacking our nation’s capitol attacking law enforcement in the name of what what were these people trying to accomplish? If Dr. King were alive today, do you think he would condone this kind of behavior? Ultimately, King redefines and embraces the term extremist but and this is very important within the context of Christianity in American history. Dr. Kim stated that Jesus was an extremist for love, Paul for the gospel Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson were extremists for their causes, which ultimately became fundamental values in American politics. But none of them resorted to violence. Towards the end of the letter, King praises the protesters and shows his confidence in the righteousness of his cause. And his belief that while he may not see the end of segregation, he knows that history will be on his side. King signs off by stating that he is likely a clergyman, or religious leader, looking to spread the gospel of peace and community. However, unlike them, he’s been jailed for his actions. By writing from his jail cell, he reminds them of the injustice and the absurdity of the situation. King understood that violence begets violence. And that is why he supported peaceful protests. Unfortunately, many fringe groups are teaching violence as a way of life. And invariably, it is the innocent, who wind up getting hurt or killed. We see this time and time again, whether it’s terrorism, riots, or just plain stupid violence, as we have just witnessed this past year. Let me tell you a little bit about my story so that you’ll understand what I do and why I do it. See, working on Wall Street for the better part of 35 plus years, I’ve come across all kinds of people. And for the most part, I have learned to live with everybody, even if I’m not like, or I’m not fond of somebody else for the greater good. We all need to get along. This is one of the lessons that I learned on 911. Now fast forward to today, we are living in a time where many people are behind on their rent their mortgage, businesses going out of business, there are people that need motivation that need hope. Now, God plucked me out of a burning, collapsing building and gave me a second chance. I looked at this and I realized that I had a mission, a calling, and that is to give hope and to inspire people. I’m here through the grace of God to help and to serve. I send out motivational messages to motivate and inspire people on a daily basis to help people overcome their circumstances and adversities. Think about your goals and dreams for 2021. Your thinking has taken you to where you are. And your thinking can take you to where you want to be and should be 2021 can be your greatest year ever. But you have to change your mindset. Do you know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Yet that is what people do every single day. And that is why people are stuck where they are. Now I haven’t met most of you, my audience. But here’s what I do know, you have greatness in you. Now you need to bring it out. Don’t let somebody his opinion of you define who you are. Let me repeat that. Don’t let somebody his opinion of you define who you are. I know that when my time comes to go back to my Creator, I plan on robbing the cemetery. Because I plan on living full and dying empty. Knowing that I will have given my all in this world until I have nothing left. I know what it means to be on top of the world one minute, and to be at the bottom of the next minute to wonder how I’m going to feed my family to get to a point where I’ve hit rock bottom to plead with God to help me get back on my feet again. I learned on more than one occasion. If you want to get something, you have to go through something. Now this is your time, regardless of your circumstances. Understand that somebody else has gone through the exact same thing and they survived. And if they survived, you can survive. Don’t focus on where you are. Focus on where you want to be. You have to decide that your dreams are non negotiable. Dr. King’s dream was non negotiable. In the words of one of my mentors, Les Brown, if you want to make it right now, through the global pandemic, through the craziness, you have to be hungry. People that are hungry are relentless. They don’t take no for an answer. They are unstoppable. Kareem Ellis said that in order to move on, you have to give a pink slip to all the negative people in your life. They’re just dragging you down. Remember your life is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship and you are the dictator. It is up to you to decide who you’re going to let in and who you’re going to keep out. There are people that are always around asking you for help, but the minute you need them, where are they don’t bring those people into 2021 With you, in 2021, you have to develop yourself, work on yourself, have a clear goal and vision. Because if you don’t, you will produce 2020 results in 2021. And trust me, you don’t want to do that. Another quote from Kareem Ellis and I love this quote, he says you want to stay away from weapons of mass distraction. Now write that down, stay away from weapons of mass distraction. There is so much distraction in the world today. And it is robbing you of your greatness. Turn off the TV, stop listening to the radio, start listening to motivational speakers, I always get the question. If I turn off the TV and the radio, how do I know what’s going on in the world? You know, my answer is, don’t worry. If it gets bad enough, somebody will let you know I guarantee you. You didn’t need a TV or a radio to know that we were living through a worldwide pandemic. But you need to make a decision. I’m not going to be poor anymore. I’m not going to be a fat blob anymore. I’m not going to stay in a relationship where I am dying. No, I am going to change my life. Life is a decision. You are where you are because of the decisions that you have made. What decisions are you going to be making going forward? You have greatness in you? Are you going to bring it out? God put me through 911 so that I would realize that I have a calling. I have a mission. How many people go through life like a zombie, getting up in the morning, going to work coming home, spending the evening doing mindless things, finally going to sleep just to wake up the next morning to start all over again. That is not why we will put here on this earth we will put here to make this world a better place when we leave it than when we got here. I have people ask me all the time. How did you manage to pick up the pieces after 911? How did you have the strength to keep going? I attribute it to several things first and foremost, my belief in God. We are all God’s children. And like every good parent, God loves His children. God will never give you a challenge that you can’t overcome. If you are faced with a challenge, just look up to God and tell him God, I know you love me. So please help me through this challenge. And he will second I listened to people have been through their own struggles and conquered them. I look at King David huge underdog in his battle with Goliath. He was not gonna let anything stop him and he ultimately slew Goliath. I look at the prophets who gave strength to the people by motivating them to do God’s will the Maccabees who were the greatest underdogs in history, but overcame the Greek army, the mightiest army in the world at that time. A few sports fans. Anybody remember Joe Namath, quarterback of the New York Jets and Super Bowl three. The Jets were huge underdogs. But Joe didn’t pay any attention to the naysayers didn’t listen to the bookies didn’t listen to the sports commentators didn’t listen to the so called experts. He promised victory over the Colts and he delivered. Why, how? Because he was hungry for that ring. He believed in his heart that he could do it. And he delivered and of course, Dr. King, who set the groundwork for changing the world in a manner that nobody thought possible 60 years ago, who would have thought that we would have African Americans as CEOs of major corporations 60 years ago, who would have thought that we’d have an African American president, look what’s going on in the Middle East, who would have believed that after countless wars going on since 1948, between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and by the way, I was living in Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Not fun. But who knew who thought that we would finally see the day where the Arab countries would be lining up to make peace with Israel instead of trying to destroy them, but we can’t rest on our laurels, there is still so much more to be done. And it’s up to us to do it. We just need to make a decision that we can and will change ourselves, and then move on to change the world. I like the following example if we were all sitting in a room with no lights, and I handed out a candle to everyone in the room, and then I lit my candle with every light. Sure, not a lot. But some then if I go to the person in the front row and light their candle with my candle be diminished in any way. No, but is there is there now twice as much light. Yep. Then another person lights their candle and another and another and another and before you know it, we have lit up a room and then you keep going and you light up a town. Then you light up a city you light up a country and you light up the world. All because each and every one of you made a decision to do what you can had to change yourself and then the world. But always remember, violence is never the answer. Violence only begets violence and never accomplishes anything. I’ve always told my children. If you get into an argument with somebody, the minute you raise your hand against the other person, even though you may be right, you have now given up your right to be right. When there is injustice in the world, we must stand up and fight that injustice. Even if we are the only ones in the fight. We have to keep going. I want to end with quote from a prominent author and pastor in Germany, his name was Martin the molar and he emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler, and spent the last seven years of Nazi ruled in concentration camps. He is perhaps best remembered for his postwar words. First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew, then they came for me. And there is no one left to speak for me. Let us never be in a situation where there is no one left to speak for us. You were listening to whispers in Brixton. I’m your host every show, but until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.