Bishop Blake's historic sermon MLK commemoration memphis

Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake’s Historic Mountaintop Commemoration Sermon, Part I

On April 2-4, 2018, many thousands from all over the world converged upon Memphis, TN to join the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s historic Mountaintop Speech.  The speech was delivered at COGIC’s Mason Temple headquarters in Memphis the night before his assassination. The evening marked Dr. King’s second visit to Mason Temple. 

Our Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. presented the keynote sermon on the 50th anniversary of that day.  Below is Part I of his sermon:

Jeremiah 8:11

For they have healed the hurt of the daughter

of my people slightly, saying, “Peace, peace”;

when there is no peace.

King James Version (KJV)

50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. posed the question,  “Where do we go from here?” The historical and political context of his question is very instructing to all of us.  In 1967, 197 race riots rolled through our cities; some of the worst violence our country ever experienced was during that period. In the midst of the turmoil, Dr. King argued convincingly that any solution to the crisis would have to be grounded at a profound sense of sanctity for human life and rooted in the faith and confidence in our God. Dr. King recognized that it was the faith and the unity of the masses of Black people that won the victories of the Civil Rights Movement.

During the dark days of segregation and oppression, Black people were forced into unity; forced into an awareness of our identity, forced into awareness of self-reliance and broad-scale strategic action.  During those days, our greatest and best communities, towns, colleges, businesses, and community organizations were built. During those days, our families were more stable; our crime rate was lower, our single-parent rate was lower, our churches were strong, and they functioned as community centers for mobilization, for planning, and for strategic action.

The Civil Rights Movement was powerfully successful because black people were mutually confronted by community commonly felt needs and challenges injustice fear terrorism bondage drove us together. we longed for equal opportunities and equal treatment under the law.  We wanted safety and protection for our persons for our families and for our possessions. Our plight was intolerable: mentally, emotionally, and physically. We had been under the hammer of oppression so long that if some had to die so that the misery could be alleviated, then we as a people were willing to face that possibility.  Our unity was forged on the anvil of mutual pain and suffering; our adversity became the source of our strength. The strategy of nonviolent protest was the way, and the wisest, most effective means of attaining our goals.

With the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it seemed then that the goal had been reached.  Complete racial integration became the goal for many. But unfortunately, the age of integration has seemed to be the age of disintegration for the Black community. We gained the whole world but we lost our souls.  We lost our essential identity and our unity. The riots, Black militants, and Black gangs caused a high wall to exist which separated moderate Blacks from those more aggressive and confrontational groups.  Those opposed to the legitimate aspirations of Black people justified their antagonism by reference to these radical elements in Black society.

And so ended the days of Black unity and strategy, and, for many Blacks, the days of Black progress. 

For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, “Peace, peace”; when there is no peace.

All is not well with Black America:

  • 2009 – 21% of Black enrolled in college graduated from college, as opposed to 44% of whites.
  • 2015  – 23% of African Americans held a college degree, compared to 33% of whites.
  • 2016 – 25% of Blacks lived at or below the poverty level, compared to 11% of whites.
  • 2011 – 44% Black families were 2-parent families, as opposed to 80% of whites.  Black families are less likely to contain a married couple than all other groups.
  • 2014 – Blacks were 40% of all AIDS cases and 50% of all AIDS deaths.
  • White males are likely to live almost 5 years longer than Black males.
  • Black men are 6 times as likely to go to jail than white men, 25% more likely to die of cancer, and 2 times more likely to  die of diabetes.
  • In many areas of the US, 50% of our young people are not finishing high school.
  • In many Black communities, the unemployment rate is as high as 50%.
  • Black-on-blk homicide or murder is the leading cause of death among one age group of Black men.
  • Black men represent 14% of the US male population,  but almost 40% of male prison population.

Weapons of mass destruction may not have been discovered in Iraq, but they certainly exist across the United States. I’ve read that there are 300 million guns in America. No one claims that any significant percentage of those guns are in the hands of Black people. Most of those guns are in the hands of white people, and they bought those assault weapons because racist fearmongers have convinced them that hoards of Black people that are going to flood out of the cities and attack them and rob them.  They feel this will be precipitated by a catastrophic explosion of racial rage. Some domestic terrorists have proclaimed that they’ve launched their attacks against Black Americans in an effort to start what they claim to be an inevitable race war. There are those who are waiting for the privilege to take up guns against the Black community.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal in which the author, Harvard professor James Q. Wilson, without fear of contradiction, said that Blacks constitute the core of America’s crime problem and that Blacks are disproportionately likely to commit crimes. For many, we’re not just a problem, but we’ve also become a threat; a liability.  The implications of this line of reasoning should be apparent to all of us.

The book Freakonomics by Steven Levitt shows that the states with highest abortion rates experienced the highest crime drops in the 1990’s. Mr. Levitt chimes in as he considers the possible implications by saying, just for discussion’s sake, that you could abort every black baby in the country and the crime rate would go down. So, there are some who’ve strategized to keep the crime rate down by increasing the abortion rate in the black community.  At the same time, jails are being built for our young men, drugs are disabling us: and we’re killing ourselves.

Drugs and crime present clear and present dangers. We’re the poorest, the sickest, and the first to die.  If we ever needed a perfect storm to mobilize and alarm us that storm has arrived.

We’ve been healed only slightly, if at all.

For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, “Peace, peace”; when there is no peace.

All is not well with the Black people of Africa:

  • 547 million people have no access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa; 4 out of 10 people, if they have water at, all rely on rivers, ponds, and other unsafe water sources.
  • Unemployment exceeds 40% in Senegal, Swaziland, and Zambia; in Zimbabwe, 80%.
  • $200-300 per year is the approximate average income across the continent of Africa.  
  • 800,000-1 million people were killed within a period of 100 days in Rwanda in 1994.
  • 5.4 million people have died in the Congo.
  • 300,000 have been killed in Sudan.
  • 2.5million in African have been driven from their homes.
  • 25 million in Africa have been infected with AIDS
  • 15 million children in Sub Saharan Africa have been orphaned by AIDS.
  • 400,000 die from Malaria annually.
  • 450,000 died from tuberculosis in 2015.

According to the United Nations,  795 million people across the globe go to be hungry every night. The United Nations’ World Food Programme estimates that 20 million people are on the brink of starvation worldwide: the majority of them in Africa. Many will die.

The situation in Africa continues to be dire despite recent economic advances and improvements in democratic government. And in the US, the election of the first Black President for 2 terms has not overcome the barriers that confront Black America, especially for the poor.  Income inequality is at astronomical levels and is at its highest among Blacks. We face rising political nonchalance, racial resentment, and violence in the wake of the election of a President who came to office on the wave of support from the Alt-Right. Employment opportunities have declined for Blacks in the federal and state governments, both areas where Blacks have found the greatest access to the middle class. All of this is magnified by the moribund state of Affirmative Action in education and in employment.

Almost everywhere you find people of African descent, they are the poorest, the most malnourished, the least employed, and the most oppressed people, and they exist at the bottom of all social strata. This is the direct and indirect result of slavery, colonization and neo colonialism, racism, and discrimination.  When a people start out behind; devastated, wounded, and deprived, they must run faster just to maintain a stable proximity, and even faster to reduce the distance they are behind. You not only have to learn how to run, but you have to learn how to fly, and fly fast.

We need to do more.

I truly believe that this is not the time to obsess and complain about our own predicament. We’ve got to take charge of our own destiny.West Angeles LOGO

Come back to for Part II of Bishop Blake’s historic sermon.