Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm a dual U.S./Canadian citizen. I frankly don't often pay attention to U.S. holidays, since I live in Canada. But I do like to note the occurrence of Martin Luther King Day each year. Dr. King is one of my personal heroes, and I try to honor him in my work when I can.

For instance, the epigram at the beginning of Starplex is a quote from him:
Even though the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
And I have the president of the United States quote the "I have a dream" speech in this piece from Hybrids.

And Pierre quotes him in Frameshift:
"I'm not fishing for compliments here," [said Molly]. "Let me finish. I know I'm pretty -- people have told me that ever since I was a little girl. My sister Jessica has done a lot of modeling; my mother still turns heads, too. She used to say the biggest problem with her first marriage was that her husband had only been interested in her looks. Dad is an executive; he'd wanted a trophy wife -- and Mom was not content to be just that. You're the only man I've ever known who has looked beyond my outer appearance to what's inside. You like me for my mind, for . . . for . . ."

"For the content of your character," said Pierre.


"Martin Luther King. Nobel laureates are a hobby of mine, and I've always had a fondness for great oratory -- even when it's in English." Pierre closed his eyes, remembering. "`I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.'" He looked at Molly, then shrugged slightly. "Maybe it's because I might have Huntington's, but I do try to look beyond simple genetic traits, such as beauty." He smiled. "Not to say that your beauty doesn't move me."

And I give my fictional lawyer Dale Rice the privilege of knowing King in Illegal Alien:
During his sixty-seven years of life, Dale Rice had heard the name for what he was change from Colored to Negro to Black to African-American. When he'd been born, there were still people alive who had been called slave.

Dale had white hair but black eyebrows, and large pouches of skin beneath his rheumy eyes. His nose was wide and misshapen. His three-hundred-pound body resembled an Aztec step pyramid; over it, he usually wore a charcoal-gray Armani suit, the pants held up by suspenders.

His wide, smooth face had seen a lot of history. Dale had been born in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a young man in 1955 when Rosa Parks was arrested there for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white man.

In 1961, Dale had become a Freedom Rider, testing the Supreme Court's order outlawing segregation in bus terminals. When the bus he was on pulled into Anniston, Alabama, a mob of white men with clubs, bricks, metal pipes, and knives was waiting. The bus was fire bombed, and as the black and white passengers escaped they were savagely beaten; it was during this fight that Dale's nose had been broken.

In 1963, he and two hundred and fifty thousand other people marched on Washington, D.C., and heard the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., give his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Dale Rice had known King, and he'd known Malcolm X. He knew Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan. There were those who called him the top civil-rights lawyer in the United States. Dale himself thought that was probably true; he also thought it very sad that after all this time the United States still needed civil-rights lawyers.
You probably heard a sound-bite or two today from Dr. King's speech on the mall in Washington, but if you haven't listened to the whole thing or read it all recently, it's worth doing so. It makes me misty every time I hear it. The text, and the video, are here.


At January 17, 2007 11:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I listen to the "I Have a Dream" Speech every year, and I get "misty" as well.
Thanks for keeping the dream alive in your writing.

Melissa -
Sci-Fi Fan


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