Archive for January, 2008

Food for thought…..

January 30, 2008

Food for thought…… 

While running through my usual morning musings of the local newspapers this week, I was intrigued by several mentions in the Baltimore Sun and other papers concerning the menu for the Naval Academy’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast.

Seems the political correctness of the menu (fried chicken, greens, and corn bread) is now under scrutiny and is being called stereotypical, insulting or limiting. How absurd. The only thing limiting about the choice was absence of Black eyed peas, since all of the above were always meal favorites for Dr. King during his lifetime.

In fact it was Dr.King’s desire to make sure the minister’s wife who would be preparing his meal that famous Thursday night in Memphis “got it right” that brought him momentarily out onto the balcony at the Lorraine Hotel that fateful evening for last minute instructions about the evening’s meal to prepared later at the minister’s home. It was customary that someone always was in charge of the preparing the big meal after the speakers at “mass meetings.”

I was in Memphis that Sunday afternoon prior to King’s assassination to perform as a member of the Tougaloo College Concert choir (as part of our annual tour) for what was suppose to be a peaceful march to support the “Garbage Workers Strike,” however things became violent. We were on our way to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall with Duke Ellington the following Thursday night (April 4th).

In fact, while we were sitting on stage marchers who had been “tear-gassed” by police a distance away from the stage down the street to our right began rushing in our direction because of the dignitaries including Senator Edward Kennedy who were sitting on stage with us. The marchers felt the presence of dignitaries and cameras would make a difference. At least, for a while they were correct. However, it was 1968 and obviously a very dangerous time for the movement anywhere in the south, and to be in Memphis. Dr. King had been warned.

However, he insisted on going to Memphis and risking his life for the workers and their families who more than any other thread in the fabric of hope symbolized the essence of who he had been risking his life for all along.

Had Dr. King lived to eat it, the meal would have possibly been his “last supper.”  Given the risk he was taking being in Memphis at that time, I am now and was then amazed he even had an appetite. I was there. You could feel the tension in the air. Even Dr. King’s staff was concerned for his safety especially given the fact that his security detail was changed when he decided to move from the hotel he was in earlier to be in “the hood” because someone thought the other hotel was “to white”, ignoring the fact that one of the reasons he was at the hotel was for “security reasons.”

So for those who were offended by the menu, including the learned Dr. Waldo E. Johnson, Jr., at the University of Chicago’s Center for The Study of Race, Politics and Culture, get over it. In this instance, those in attendance were fed the breakfast of Champions, provided there were no “Ham Hocks” involved.

John Milton Wesley