The Sacred Feminine in action.

Climbing to the Mountaintop, Part 2

On Monday, in Part 1 of this three part post I told you why I think Martin Luther King, Jr. was so great and why we need him today.

As I also mentioned, I am on the committee for DuPage County’s MLK celebration that happened Monday night. Let me tell you, it was something else. The energy was electrifying and the speakers were more than inspiring.

Rev. Otis Moss, III from Trinity UCC in Chicago outdid himself! He reminded us that Rev. King didn’t accomplish all he did by himself because whenever someone is successful, there is always someone else who helped to pave their way or supported them along their way.  And, usually, they didn’t receive any of the credit. As he spoke I thought to myself, “This is perfect for my next blog post!”

He fueled feminism but he was not a feminist
Few people know that some have credited Martin Luther King, Jr. for helping to start the feminist movement. Not because he urged women to demand their equal rights. Because he and others in the civil rights movement made the women so angry.  Though they were some of the greatest workers, supporters and organizers, women were often given little to no recognition and respect. Some of the behavior by the men can be chalked up to the times. But other behaviors can’t.

Rosa Parks, bus boycott…maybe?
I love the story of the Montgomery’s Women’s Political Council (WPC) that organized in 1946. The president of the group, Jo Ann Robinson, announced after Rosa Park’s arrest (see picture above) that they would begin a bus boycott to end segregation. In the book, I May Not Get There with You by Michael Eric Dyson he writes, “Without WPC’s ingenious tactical maneuvers, quick response, and organizational efficiency, the Montgomery bus boycott may have never occurred. But beyond a token nod to their efforts and those of Rosa Parks, King barely recognized WPC’s achievements in his account of the year-long boycott, Stride Toward Freedom.”

As the black ministers of Montgomery were struggling to figure out how to approach— and if they would support—this bus boycott a man by the name of E.D. Nixon gave them a tongue lashing.

“’You guys have went around here and lived off these poor washer women all your lives and ain’t never done nothing for’em.’ Nixon threatened to tell the black community that the boycott would be canceled because the ministers were ‘too scared’ to stand up for them. As social historian Paula Giddings memorably sums it up, faced ‘with a choice of confronting either the wrath of white racists or those black women, they chose the safer course.’ The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was organized, and King was named its president.”

The “Prone” Position
As time passed, and things for women didn’t get any better, some women within the civil rights movement came to express their anger at the way they were being treated by comparing the female oppression to black suffering.  It didn’t get them very far. When female members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) asked the male members what they thought the correct position was for women in the organization, Stokely Carmichael half heartedly responded, “Prone.” Ouch.

The women’s efforts made little difference within the organization but lots of other women heard about Carmichael’s embarrassing comment. Dyson writes, “…women (of the SNCC) brought many of the values and tactics of the civil rights struggle into the nascent women’s liberation movement.” And the fire of feminism raged.

King’s Second Chance?
Because of his murder, Dr. King never really had the chance to evolve his ideas about women as the women’s movement evolved. I wonder if he would have “seen the light.”

I have created a karmic story about the possibilities…. Upon his untimely death, Dr. King entered the pearly gates of heaven and had the chance to review his life. Of course, there was great praise for his courage, wisdom, commitment and sacrifice by the angels. But, after the praise, there was a pause.  One beautiful angel stepped forward and said, “Martin, you did so many things right. But, there is just one thing we need to talk about…the women.”

The angel goes on to explain, “I know you were very focused in your quest for racial equality. I even understand the male thinking of this time. But, in your quest, you left half of your race behind. In fact, you left half of the human race behind. Now, I know that as you reflect on this you feel regretful and maybe even wonder, “Gosh, did I have to do everything?”  But, not to worry. We have a way for you to atone for these actions that will allow your soul to grow.” (Think Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” here).

“There will be many women in the near future who will work very hard for equality and the Sacred Balance. Your mission, if you choose to grow spiritually, if you choose to learn THIS lesson of equality, will be to help these women with their work.” I like to think he took the job.

This story has emerged because, I have to admit, I feel Dr. King’s spirit close by. I feel his urgency, understand his vision of nonviolence, and sense his desire to have his model for change grow beyond the issue of civil rights.  I depend on his spirit to remind me not to accept the status quo, have faith that mountains will move, commitment that breeds hope, and love that conquers fear.

I wonder, as he looks back on his life, if Dr. King chuckles when he considers his part in fanning the flames of feminism. Could it be, that in the bigger picture, it was part of the master plan? We Sacred Feminists know the answer to that.

Tomorrow, in Part 3 of Climbing the Mountaintop I will share how I have applied Dr. King’s model to two initiatives.

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  2. Happy MLK Day! | Sacred Feminist - […] Climbing to the Mountaintop Part 2 […]

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