Saturday, April 4, 2015

MLK April 4 - June 10th

MLK - April 4 - June 10

I'd like to share some thoughts on this April 4, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis.

First I'd like to call attention to the Army After Action Reports Summary, a document that was pried lose from a reluctant government by a determined law suit COPA v. DOD - Department of Defense, which COPA lost, but made the Army look so bad it reluctantly released the AAR summary that details the intense surveillance they had on MLK even as he was gunned down.

While MLK Day in January near his birthday is a national holiday and day of service, the date of his death is better remembered, as with JFK, on the day of his death, as it is on the corner of where RFK stood and gave a short speech denouncing violence and calling for the peaceful non-violent protests that MLK endorsed. [See: ]

More recently - on MLK Day in January, I visited the crossroads site in Maple Shade, New Jersey where Mary's Place bar once stood, and where MLK was radicalized and committed his ministry to civil rights. I met a half-dozen others there, including Patrick Duff, who is campaigning to have an historical marker placed at the site. From the Maple Shade city manager Duff had obtained a copy of the original police report King had singed pressing charges against the proprietor of Mary's Place for refusing to serve him and his three companions.

Besides King's signature, the document is important because it also contains King's address - 753 Walnut Street, Camden, New Jersey!

Did you know Martin Luther King, Jr. lived in Camden, New Jersey?

Neither did I but there it is - in black and white - a legal Camden address.

So I pumped the address into my Iphone GPS and drove down Camden Road, past my old East Camden neighborhood and into the heart of the South Camden ghetto - and before the sun was down, I got a few photos of the house in Camden where Martin Luther King, Jr. once lived for two years while he was a divinity student. Still standing among the ruins of a once proud neighborhood, the house is now boarded up and littered with trash and grafitti.

Two days later the photo appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in a story about the bar incident and the discovery of King's Camden home, but Duff later found two articles from the 1980s that also document the fact that King lived there.

The incident at Mary's Place took place on June 10, 1950, a day thirteen  years later when JFK would give his famous "Peace Speech" at American University.

Today there's a statute of King on the Washington Mall in DC, and a plaque to JFK at American University, but there also should be historical markers at both the location of Mary's Place in Maple Shade and 753 Walnut Street in Camden, where King once lived.

I also learned that Martin Luther King also gave an important and under documented speech to a convention of Quakers in Cape May, New Jersey, a speech in which he commits himself to non-violent, peaceful social change, a speech that may have been audio recorded because there are copies of a transcript on line.

In reading Mary Elise Sarotte's book "The Collapse - the Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall" (Basic Books, 2014), she notes that MLK gave speeches in both East and West Berlin and inspired some of the church ministers who led the peaceful protests that resulted in the opening of the wall in November, 1989.

So on this April 4, 2015, I call attention to the influence MLK still has, and a few of the local ties, and mark June 10, as a day when I will visit the Rt. 73 and Camden Road, Maple Shade location of Mary's Place, and then drive by 753 Walnut Street in Camden to MLK's old Camden hood, and hope others will join me.

Bill Kelly

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