tv Book Discussion on Death of a King CSPAN December 26, 2014 8:01pm-9:19pm EST
as well as the media as the made in the present. the author argues that were members of king's life has been sanitized which has left the man and the final months prior to his death misunderstood. this is about an hour and 15 minutes. >> tavis is the host of the late night television show as well as they tavis smiley show for public radio international. he has authored and co-authored 16 books, 16 books. and at one point they said we'd couldn't write or read. i think they were quite wrong about that. i have read several of them in this i know is going to be his most pensive, thoughtful emotional transformative book that he has ever written. one of the things i can tell you about tavis, he is serious about
this museum and he is serious about dr. king. when tavis comes to memphis even if he doesn't come in to talk to the staff he will often kneel down and pray because dr. king meant so much to his life and continues to mean so much to his life. for those of you who have never met him you have got to know he's a down-to-earth guy. he is just like your brother. he is a person you always want to talk to. my first introduction to tavis, tavis gave some of the most thoughtful commentary that i have ever heard. pappas is a brilliant young man and he has been brilliant for a long time. i know in some ways and among some audiences he has been a little controversial but when what i will say to you about tavis is tavis always speaks to
himself. whether you agree with that or not or whether you like it or not he does speak truth to power. that is what i love about him. he is a longtime friend. he is for me personally much like a brother. i love him like one. i've met his mother who he has brought to the museum. i understand that he did play -- at the alpha chapter in indiana so for those of you who happen to be cap's in the room i want you to know that about them as well. i could go on about tavis because i do love the tavis and have loved him on there since i first heard him and didn't know him. i want to introduce you for introduce some and present to others than man who is an icon in his own time. and he's not that old. icons are usually old but he is already an icon. it is a privilege and an honor
to welcome him back to the national civil rights museum. my friend mr. tavis smiley. [applause] >> thank you for coming out. let me start by thanking eberly. such a wonderful introduction. that may well be the second best introduction i have received. the person turned to dismay did not show up that i did it myself. [laughter] other than that it was awfully nice and i want to thank you. let me just say it is always a delight and always an honor to come back to this great city of memphis. memphis is an iconic town in the
history of this great nation for all sorts of reasons. and i'm always honored to, especially when i get a chance to come to this national civil rights museum. this for me is not just a museum. it's not just a national monument. it is for the sacred space. i mean that literally. this for me is sacred space. beverly ashanti made when i come to town sometimes i speak in town and they see one of my sisters who lives here. i come by to see her and i have never come to this town without walking out of that balcony and sometimes at 1:00 in the morning, 2:00 in the morning as the schedule allows. i never come into this town
without coming to that sacred space in paying homage to the person i regard as the greatest democratic small d the greatest democratic public intellectual in the history of this nation. america's greatest democratic small d and let me say it another way i think dr. king is the greatest american we have ever produced. i could debate you on fdr and i could debate you on abraham lincoln but dr. king is the greatest american this country has produced. i come to this city and i always come to this sacred space to pay my respects to the great american martin luther king, jr.. let me just say a quick word about the book and i want to save some time for q&a. let me ask you to thank by way of applause thank c-span for covering this event tonight. we thank c-span. [applause]
c-span is one of my favorite channels and for those who follow my work you know for 12 years every year in february we would have the state of the black union symposium and c-span cover that live every year for a dozen years or so. they have been so kind and generous notches to me but to other persons in this country who need a space to try to help america live up to its best ideals and c-span is a great channel. i'm always delighted to take the opportunity to cover something we are doing so want to thank c-span for covering this gathering tonight. let me start by thanking beverly and her team and all the wonderful people on the staff here. i feel like i'm family because i come here so often. i was just here in april when this facility reopened and was rededicated. i think a good number of olympians have come through this new and improved national civil rights museum but let me take a moment while we are on
television and i think there's a "dancing with the stars" television camera so that may take a commercial for this grand facility. every good where i go i talk and tell people the time if you have not been to the new and improved civil rights museum may need to go. is a one-of-a-kind in this country one-of-a-kind in the world and i was completely blown away. i knew how much money they had to work with and how they squeezed all of this richness out of that little budget i'm still trying to figure that out. beverly and faith in and the architectural term and the professors and academics. pulling all of us together they did a magnificent job. if you're watching us on c-span tonight or today if you have not been to the national civil rights museum in memphis eucom. plan a vacation to memphis. check out graceland after you do
this. but come to the national civil rights museum and be enlightened and encouraged. be empowered by the telling of the story. deposit great black intellectual once asked what america has been america without her black people? i think you can answer that people without demonizing any culture or race but one has to acknowledge america simply would not be here were it not for the contributions of african-americans. i believe every race of people ought to be judged by the best i have been able to produce. i believe dr. king is among the best that our people are produced. this movement was not just about king. am i screwed to say that. king was a man. he was not a movement. the movement entailed a lot of other people, some we know and some we don't know and many who paid the ultimate price with their lives to help make america
a country that will one day be as good as its promise. we ain't there yet. we are working toward becoming a nation that will one day be as good as its promise and that journey would not be as far along as if this were not the grand contributions of black people all the way down to sanitation workers. this is a great city and a great facility and i want everyone who was watching on c-span, make sure they make plans to come to this part of the country, be sure you come. i have seen so many friends just since april and every time they come they feel the need to tax me to prove to me that they are here. i'm always getting texted e-mails and facebook posts from people who have heard me talk about the national museum. that is my commercial for this facility. let's give an applause for all of the wonderful work that they have done and are doing here at the national civil rights museum. [applause] let me jump in to talking about
this because i think part of what is wrong with this country as we are too often engaged in monologue and not enough in dialogue and i want to leave time for your questions and comments about this great american dr. king and this new book the real story of dr. martin luther king, jr.'s final year -- "death of a king." the me go back to something that beverly mention about my visceral connection to dr. king. this is tough to talk about in part because i took a long time to write a book called what i know for sure. it's my memoirs, the story of my life. i hope there is more life to live. it's the story of my life. the book is called what i know for sure in a notebook i talk about the defining the moment of my life. it's always hard to tell the story because i don't want to drag my family into it. i think you can appreciate that the one i was a 12-year-old kid i was accused, was one of 10
kids. i had nine brothers and sisters and when i was a 12-year-old kid at my church i was accused of doing something, my sister and i fill us who live here we were accused of doing something we had not done inside the church. the minister of my church we were called into his office, never at a meeting never asks a single question there was no conversation. i didn't know that i have been accused of anything. the entire church he stood up behind a pulpit and essentially castigated my sister and me in front of the entire congregation. it was the kind of embarrassment that a 12-year-old kid, it's hard to process. my parents were sitting there and they were obviously embarrassed and humiliated. they had not been spoken to and phyllis and i have not been spoken to. this is a major embarrassment for our entire family.
the second row was called wow. that was our row. we were on the side of the church. this was our row are here. my dad sat here and my mama sat here and the rest of us lined up in a row. he looks at us and phyllis and i are done completely by this accusation embarrassment. my father got home at night and he did something that might yet never done before and has not done since. on that particular night given that level of embarrassment you understand in the black community the only place a black man can have any stature is where? in the black church. there you can be a deacon. the black church was the only place in a certain point of time and this country's history where you have stature. my mother and father were involved in the church and they were thoroughly embarrassed. my father got home at night and
he completely snapped. he beat my sister fill us in me so severely that we were in the hospital in traction. that's how severe the beating was. as a 12-year-old kid i could not understand why this had happened to me. i didn't know why we have been accused. i didn't know why he had done that in front of the church. i couldn't understand why i wasn't called in for a conversation. i hated my parents. i hated my mom for not protecting me. i hated my dad for losing his temper and i hated my dad for never asking us when we got home. we were kids and we were not too believed that we were never asked or told anything except get in your room. i couldn't understand at that moment. for some reason i do not know why except for the fact that god must have put it on his heart a deacon in my church after i got at the hospital, taken my church
gave me a gift and the gift was a box full of king recordings. barry gordy of motown fame had the good sense to follow dr. king around at a certain part of the movement. an engineer from motown gets paid to follow king around and record his presentations during his talks and speeches. most of us and some of you. i was about to say that most americans think that king only gave one speech in his whole life. then it hit me i am in a memphis. you all know he gave at least two speeches. the audience is trying to figure that out. they don't get the joke. the announcement he gave before he died was here in memphis. everyone knows that but most americans think having only gave one speech in his whole life. i have a dream and i think the speech only had one line in it.
i -- a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin. all of you know because that is all, the only part of the narrative that we ever get. too many of us think he only gave one speech that had only one line in the thank goodness barry gordy of someone following him around. gordy eventually put some of these features out on lp. this deacon in my church had collected from these records and for whatever reason he gave the box to me as a gift. i finally got a chance to put those records on. i mean old-school lp's. the needle, you know. young folks you don't know what i'm talking about. i finally got a chance to listen to those records. and i heard king talking about the power of love. he was talking to a nation about
the power of love and not the love of power. too many of us have gotten a twisted. he was talking about the fact that love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend. king was saying that love is the most powerful force in the wor world. you was talking to the nation but he might as well been talking to me. are you with me. are you with me on this? i could not figure this out. i heard king sing to me as a 12-year-old kid we broken apart and broken in spirit feeling guilty and not even knowing why. feeling abandoned. i heard king saying to me i hated the world and hated my mom and dad and everybody in the world i heard king say to me cap this you will have to love your way through this. love is your only option. you have to love your way through it. you have to give, you have to love. hate is not an option. bitterness is not an option.
revenge is not an option. you are going to have to love your way through this. you have to find a way to some sort of radical way to get yourself through this. i could hear king talking to me. every speech, every presentation he is infusing it with the notion of love, love, love. you realize i will come to back to this. he realized the one pointing king's life jagger hoover and the fbi said he was the most dangerous man in america. i will say that again. the fbi said mr. king was the most dangerous man in america. i ask you memphis how can you be the most dangerous man in america when the only weapon you are using is loved? my preacher said you all missed that. my preacher said i think i just read something.
and you all missed that. how can you be the most dangerous man in america when the only weapon that you use is loved? are you feeling me on this? i think that means that love is the most powerful force in the world. that is why they were scared of martin. you might put another weapon in martin's pocket. he had the weapon of ideas. i guess victor hugo was right. there's nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. martin had the right idea at the right time and this notion of love and service kings at all the time life's most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others? that love and service he talked about all the time he lived it. that was a part of his dna. so i would hear king on these records talking to me as a
12-year-old kid coming up to love your way through to the situation. my sister didn't have the benefit of hearing those king records and her life point in another direction. sadly she became a crack addict, had a number of babies out of wedlock and lived a hard life but i'm happy to say she has been relocated to memphis and went to nursing school and everything's all right now. [applause] i took a wild for her. her graduation with a happy day that was but anyway her life has turned out okay but it took her a long time to get there. the only thing that kept me from being, are you all feeling me on this? the only thing that kept me from being bitter and evil and full of revenge and hatred was king introducing me to the notion of the power of love. so the 12-year-old kid, he became a part of my dna. as a matter fact on the night of my 40th birthday, i was 39 and
i was in houston texas about to be honored on my 40th birthday is one of the youngest americans to have a professional school in major college campus named after him for tavis high school communications. i was going to be honored for my 40th birthday in houston texas and that night in my hotel room i almost died. i asked exceeded two or three times today couldn't get my breath. i was having a major anxiety attack on the eve of my 40th birthday. i couldn't understand was happening to me. i was crying and heaving and was just an ugly scene like something out of the exercise. i couldn't understand what was happening to me on this particular night. eventually i got through the night obviously. i got through that night and it took me a few days to figure out what happened to me. what happened on the eve of my 40th birthday was i was feeling all sorts of pain -- pangs of guilt because i couldn't understand how i was about to live longer than my
hero. martin was dead at 39. how is it that i am living to the 40 when my man is gone at 39? i couldn't process that pretty took me a few days to really deal with that. and thankfully i got through it but that is how connected a few to the spirit of this man who saved my life when i was 12 even though he had long since been dead. that is how i was introduced to dr. king and you can read about that in the introduction to the book. i want people to understand mike connection in place of visceral and when you watch my tv show on public radio or anyplace else you have never seen anywhere at work talk to me for too long of a time without hearing some reference to king being made. he is in my dna. he is in my spirit. since i have -- was 12 i've only
had one goal in life and that is to do my small part to make the world safe for his legacy. to do my small part whether on the radio or television or whatever i'm doing i want to do my small part to make the world safe for his legacy. and this book has another piece and part of that process. i could've written this book a long time ago. i've been researching it since i was 12. but now is the right time to get this book out. why? because i believe that king has now been so sanitized and so sterilized and so romanticized and in some way so demonized. i sound like jackson -- jesse jackson, don't i? he's been so sanitized and sterilized at the truth of who he really was this one day going
to be irrecoverable. he put a narrative out for too long and it's hard to change that narrative. so we have to construct what i would call an urban legend about dr. king. an urban legend circulated by dr. king. an urban legend is that he was just a dreamer with a smile on his face saying i have a dream and we shall overcome, free at last. that is not the complexity of the man. i believe that every one of you in this room and i know it's true for me, believe that each and every one of us comes to know who we really are in the dark and difficult days of our lives. when everything is going all right, it's all good. in the dark and difficult moments that is when we discover who we really are. can i tell you something else? that is when you are going to find out who is right with you.
you will find out who is really with you. who is going to be faithful until the end? who's going to be faithful to you unto death. you will find out that in the dark and difficult days. has anyone had a period in your life are yet to figure out what who you were and he you looked around and saw who was there and who wasn't? dr. king is no different. if you think you know dr. king and you don't know how he traversed how he navigated the most difficult days of his life and you don't really know him yet. kings "i have a dream" speech in 1963, he is dead in 1968. that is five more years that you have him frozen in some frame at the lincoln monument, lincoln memorial, the march on washington. you have got him playing in 63 and you really don't know who he is. for the next five years he evolves on a whole lot of things.
the man is that i have a dream before he died in the last years before his dream had become a nightmare. the man who told harry belafonte for all the work we have done for integration i believe we have integrated into a burning house. we have integrated into a burning house. hold onto your seat right quick. i'm going to tell you something you are going to believe. hold on because -- the last call that martin made from this location, one of the last calls he made was in his church in atlanta to speak to his secretary about his daddy who was his copastor is you know. one of last calls he made was to talk to his family. martin had a policy every thursday or friday of calling in his sermon because back in the old days in l.a. where i live
and go to church they have announcements up on the big screen now. but back in the day to remember the old church school bulletin? we are trying to save trees now that back in the day in the black church they would hand you a bulletin with the order of services in the sermon topic for that sunday morning. somebody say amen. you walk in and you get the bulletin. king had to call the sermon and every thursday and friday. he always got back to atlanta on sunday. in fact in the last service life everybody turned on him in one place he found solace was in the pulpit at ebenezer. king made a phonecall back to his church to tell them what his sunday morning sermon was going to be having made it back to atlanta on sunday morning. he was killed on his balcony thursday night in a made up back on sunday.
he was going to preach. why america may go to hell. you are watching right now say tavis you are lying. no, it's real. the sermon was going to be on sunday morning but why america may go to hell. he didn't say america was going to hell. he said why america may go to hell. if we don't start to deal with this triple threat as he called it the triple threat of racism, poverty and militarism we are simply going to lose our democracy. this democracy is not sustainable. he was right then and he is sure enough right now. if we don't start dealing with racism poverty and militarism that is hurting this country we are going to slide into hell.
martin was going to preach a sermon the average american that they have a dream man said america may go to hell they can juxtapose those two things. this is what i mean when we say i've we don't know who dr. king was. we don't know how he had to navigate that dark and difficult year of his life when he had to walk that last mile of the way all by himself. on april 4, 196067 dr. king steps inside the riverside church in manhattan and he gives a speech called beyond vietnam. in that speech dr. king calls america his country, your country, my country the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. that is a damning and strong indictment to call your
government the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. this was dr. king with the nobel peace prize but it was also in the 60s in america. with a black man. telling white folk, telling america black man who has been called communist who is now at the height of the war offering some anti-american rhetoric telling america you america are the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. you can imagine that did not sit well with the whole lot of people. martin king woke up the next morning and every media outlet in this country had turned on him overnight. i live in l.a. and hollywood predicting guarantee you one thing and you know this must have been her own lives. there is no such thing as overnight success.
there is no such thing as an overnight success and i can tell you something else. you can't go to persona non grata when i preview can go from being a success to being irrelevant overnight that if you don't believe me exhibit a ray rice. and there are a number of other examples. i'm not trying to demonize him. i'm just saying one day you are on top of it in the next day you are -- you can turn on you real fast. dr. king steps to that podium in riverside. he is all that and then some until 7:00 that night when he called america the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. he said it's time to end the silence because sometimes silence itself is betrayal. sometimes silence is betrayal. king left the church in that
night he had a huge -- he got seven standing ovations during his speech. he was like -- and woke up the next morning. every major newspaper every media outlet in the country castigated him the next day. if you read this book "death of a king" you will see with the liberal "new york times" said about king the next day. when you read what liberal "washington post" said about king the next day it's going to hurt your feelings. when you read what "time" magazine wrote about king the next day it's going to make you cry. the media turned on him how do i put this sooner sooner than right now on quicker than that once. that's how swift it was. they turned on him overnight. the media turns on you first including i might add the black media. we will come back to that.
the media turns on them first and then the white house turns on him. martin has worked with lyndon johnson the president to pass the voting rights act and the civil rights act so they are cool up until this speech. when martin gives the speech the white house turns on him. lyndon johnson meets with other black leaders from that point forward that martin is disinvited to the white house. so the media turns on him, the white house turns on him and then white america turns on him. the last poll taken in his life found, the harris poll, that 7 75%, three-quarters of the american people thought dr. king in the last year of his life was irrelevant. 75%. no black folks hold on to your seat again. the last year of his life almost 60% of black people thought
dr. king was persona non grata. and i say black people turned on him i mean lloyd wilkins of the naacp, wait until you read the in the book what the naacp said to dr. king. the other black nobel peace prize laureate the naacp wrote and passed a resolution to condemn dr. king. when ralph bunch saw the language it wasn't tough enough for him and he spiced it up even more. ralph bunch personally spiced up the language to condemn the other laureate nobel peace prize winner martin king. where wilkins the naacp and the other black nobel peace prizewinner turns on them. they went in publicly and
dr. king. adam clayton powell jr. love their brother but where martin was concerned a straight hater. he was hating on dr. king. it was one of the most difficult passages to write. even though adam clayton powell has been hating on dr. king publicly. they're all kinds of examples where folks were hating on him and he loved them as hard as he could. he invites martin to dinner one night at his home and martin went anyway. that's like daniel walking into the lion's den on purpose. he knew where he was going but he invited him so he went anyway. when you read the passage in his book what adam clayton powell did to his space at his house you ain't going to believe it. clayton powell jr. turns on him
and we are on national television on c-span so i'm not going to even quote what's in the text because i can't cant the thurgood marshall said about dr. king. yeah that thurgood marshall. the leading journalist of the day and other black media outlets turned on dr. king. so the white house is turned on him, the media has turned on him, white folk have turned on him, black folk had turned on him and if that's not enough inside his own organization sclc he can get a consensus to support him on his opposition to the vietnam war. when you read the story of the meeting they had one day his organization dr. king founded sclc. he is board of directors and past error organization to condemn him over his stance on the vietnam war. his organization writes the resolution to condemn him.
he said who are they trying to come after me? he said i'm signing the checks around here. i would have lauded as dr. king very sure pink slip goodbye and don't let the door hit you where the good lord split you. what dr. king was so loving and so kind he went to adam's house for dinner. his organization is voting to condemn him and he still has the same folks on the board and having dinner with them to try to understand why they feel this way. it's called radical empathy. i'm not quite there yet. it's called radical empathy. everyone was against him. on top of all that he feels the death angel hovering in his face every day. he knows there's a bullet out there with his name on it in these telling everybody in a circle he knows his time is limited and he knows that time is going to come is coming soon.
i want to hear it because they love barton so much. and he didn't want to hear that i'm ralph didn't want to hear that. it can want to hear that he was about to die, be murdered. so he couldn't talk to them. everybody else is turned against him. his martin turned to? it's a good thing before he was a civil rights leader before he was a ph.d. before all of that he was a preacher. he had that one connection. he didn't have that connection and there are stories in this tax that will make you cry. i have read the book 25 times and i watch every time -- i cry every time. they're certain parts of the book for you see martin at night crying himself to sleep. some nights he can't sleep in the southside. he's looking at the stars and singing.
singing trying to pray and pulled himself through. one night they can't find martin. it's 3:00 in the morning. they are at a hotel and he's on the balcony standing in his pajamas in the middle of the night singing. rock of ages let me hide. they said martin is everything all right in martin just kept singing. they left and came back at 7:00 in the morning and martin was still on that balcony in the same spot in his pajamas still singing rock of ages let my -- let me hide myself in the. if you thought he gave one speech, and last year of his life because he speaks martin's voice is loud and clear. in the last year of his life
read the sermons he was preaching at ebenezer on sundays and look how he was preaching to himself as much as he was to the parishioners trying to pull and push and pray himself through and oftentimes confessed himself through his own situation. dr. king was a public servant, he was not a perfect servant. this book does not shy away from his shortcomings. he was not human and divine commuters just human. i don't shy away from the shortcomings in his life. but the love he talked about day in and day out that is who he was. the most depressing part about writing this book and that i see this everywhere you go and i want to acknowledge it on c-sp c-span, dr. king has three principle biographies. taylor branch, david darrow and clay carson.
there is no book written without the heavy lifting that has been done by branch and cairo -- and i thank them for the having the thing that they did. this is the book that looks at the last 12 months. april 4, 1967 and 68 looking just at that last 12 months ended the first book i might add that tells the story in real time. so it puts you in the space with dr. king. as a matter of fact in this book he has never dr. king. to you and to me he is docked. i want to humanize him and take them off that pedestal and put you in his inner circle so you knew him as doctor. so when you see dog i'm talking about dr. and author of the book you will know him as doc. like his colleagues and co-workers knew him. i will put in the space with him and is like a real-time movie where you grow with them every
step of the way for the last 12 months. until he arrives at this sacred space to lorraine motel at the national civil rights museum. you witness every step of the way he's pulling in praying and confessing his way through this because he knows his time is limited. he knows he's living on borrowed time at the most depressing part is to realize with all the folk around him he still essentially died alone. he dies alone. i hate to say this to you and please forgive me for putting it in such stark terms but the truth of the matter is we helped to kill dr. king. we helped kill him. he might say tavis that's a strong indictment. maybe so but we helped to kill him because we abandoned him in his dark and difficult moments.
the media abandoned him. the body politic abandoned him, white folk abandoned him, black folk abandon him. his own circle was and where he should've been. you do realize india now know that dr. king's treasury james harrison was a paid fbi informant. inside of his own circle. he's got fbi informants. one of the photographers covering him everyday since paid fbi informant. on the inside they are sending reports back to the fbi everyday. say nothing of his being -- everywhere you went. he was essentially by himself and essentially died alone. he dies at 39 and malcolm and martin both died at the same age, 39. the autopsy revealed he had the
insides of an rommell 65-year-old man. the stress on the pressure was killing him and we abandoned him and we helped to kill him by not being there for him and turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the truth he was trying to tell us on how to save our democracy by -- that's a depressing part. now here's the funny side. the good part of the story for me is this. all of those hours of surveillance tapes, although wiretapping tapes, hours and hours and hours of tape, not one single solitary time ever is martin ever heard contesting the humanity of any human being. nothing derogatory, nothing
derisive nothing dismisses nothing demonizing. in other words the love he talked about he lived that. in public and in private he was who i thought he was. that's a beautiful thing. to withstand the scrutiny of history for your hero to end up being as advertised, to end up being exactly who you thought he was. that's the beauty of this story. i also hope that this book would not just be a look back at the last year that would allow us to help to love and appreciate and respect and revere him even mo more, not just for the holidays and monuments and postage stamps in schools and libraries in streets and that's all good come he deserves all that but the best we can honor him is to make the world safer his legacy. what is that legacy? justice for all, service to
others and the love that liberates people. justice for all, service to others and a love that liberates people. that's the essence of his legacy. i want us to look back and try to appreciate him more by understanding what he had to deal with the most dark and difficult days and how we got up every day. sundays was difficult to get up and tell the truth but he kept doing it. their stories in this book about one day martin got up got dressed in a suit and tie socks, shoes everything, fully dressed and couldn't get out the door. he turned around, got back into bed fully clothed pulled the covers over his head and just cried and cried and cried. he didn't know what else to do. this is what martin king was going through in the last year because we abandoned him because we turned on him because we can
help to kill him. by shunning him and making him a pariah making him a persona non grata. i hope this book will be a cautionary tale. a cautionary tale i hope will be that our society would pay a heavy price if we continue to ignore our truth-tellers. there are people today against all the odds were trying to get us the truth about what we are doing to the environment. we think global warming and climate change is a joke. the water in the air we breathe we somehow think that's a joke and we care a deaf -- turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to folks trying to get us to do with the inconvenient truth of what we are doing to the environment ignoring those truth-tellers. folks are trying to understand that poverty is threatening our democracy.
poverty is a matter of national security raid 1% of the people cannot continue to own and control 40% of the wealth. the top 400 richest americans have wealth -- the bottom 150 million of us and they call this a democracy? it may be a plutocracy or an oligarchy but it's not democracy and those numbers are not sustainable and we don't want to hear the folks trying to tell us the truth about what poverty is doing to this country. they don't want to hear it. we have folks telling us the truth about this program we have on steroids. no one wants to hear that truth. beverly made reference there have been some people that hated me and disappointed in me and i'm used to that now. but i can tell you one thing.
it's about to get worse. i have a whole new boldness now. i have got more voice. i have a whole new boldness when it comes to telling the truth that i know. let me just say this though. i recognize i do not have a monopoly on the truth. i could be wrong. there's the truth and there is the way to the truth. i'm always on that journey trying to get to the truth but every one of us is obligated in our lives to commit ourselves to seeking the truth and speaking the truth and standing on the truth and staying with the truth. that is the message of king's life. to seek the truth and then speak the truth and stand on the truth and stay with the truth. not enough folks are willing to tell the truth. so we keep ignoring these truth-tellers.
if dr. king were here today he without question one of campaign if he were here today he would have campaigned for barack obama. he would have voted for barack obama and then he would have become his chief critic. how do i know this? in the book you are going to read the closest thing the king experience to having a black president, the closest thing in his lifetime was electing the first black mayor of a major american city. yet mayor wharton here so this is, now. as a matter of fact some say you can have it. you notice that white folks pass up the offer. you can have this.
you can have this right now. all jokes aside king went to cleveland repeatedly. king went to cleveland repeatedly to help elect carles stokes the first black mayor of cleveland. that's how i know he would have campaigned for obama in voted for obama and become obama's chief critic. two funny stories in the book to stories that cleveland that i won't spoil the read retreat. it's a funny story in the book. this book has a lot of funny. dr. king was a funny guy pretty was a jokester and a prankster and the last day of his life what's he doing? pillow fighting with andy. jumping up and down on the bed with a pillow fight hours before he is dead. his work was so serious he didn't want his image out. there's a moment where dr. king's encounters with
prostitutes in cleveland. it's not what you think. it's a funny story and you have to read it but it goes to cleveland to campaign. speaking of the disrespect that king was getting in the last years of his life carl stokes asked him to campaign for him but when you read what he did to his faith the night that he won the election it's going to break your heart. the night he won the elections of king would have campaigned for obama and i'm glad that he won and what became his critic on racism, poverty and militarism. barack obama has -. he is a drone program on steroids. hated if you want the best of truth. he has killed more innocent women and children than george bush. hate if you want us to truth. we say we are fighting terrorism but we are creating more terrorists at the same time. as you kill innocent women and children you think their loved
ones are about to strike back at the american empire. at this very moment as a person is talking about isis he keeps using this phrase regarding degraded and destroyed. mr. president stop saying that. you ain't going to great -- degraded and destroyed nothing. you might degraded and i'm all for that. i don't want us to get hit and you don't want us to get hit so i'm all for degrading but stop telling the americans you are going to destroy isis. evil is in the world. you ain't ever going to destroy it. evil is as much a part of the world as his goodness. king said there is evil in the best of us and good in the worst of us but evil is in the world. we are not going to destroy that. let's hope to degraded and continue but don't tell the american people you're going to
destroy because you're not going going to destroy. it's just not possible. given that evil -- if you think you are going to destroy isis is going to pop up somewhere else. one day it's hezbollah in one day it's all kind of monday's isis. evil is in the world. but stop putting forth this notion of degrading and destroying. the grading i'm with you mr. president for not destroying. that's not going to happen. the sticker language here. dr. king would have an interesting dance to do with president obama. i wonder what that's busted in the oval office must be whispering to the president late at the president laid it-is making war plans because king would have none of it. i voted for him twice like the rest of you all. i want to see them do well but it took him six years to get a major public policy address on poverty and income inequality. when the family got there he said it's the defining issue of our time. he is right but it took six years to get there?
do you thinking would have been quiet for six years? six years? you keep with your obama and king t-shirts but i know the truth. king would have challenged him on poverty and militarism. in love, not demonizing, not being derisive or disrespectful. he would have been like me i hope. you respect the president and you protest the press about what is wrong to call out the president. that's what you do with any president. respect protects, correct. that is how we have to deal with this. there's an interesting dance being done on this issue. we cannot drone our way into peace. dr. king would have a lot to say about the american empire. almost 50 years after his death
what do we see in perpetuity? racism, poverty. we have some work that has to be done. i hope that this book will allow you to see the journey he walked the last mile of the way how when he tried to tell his truth everybody turned against him and on him. how we he kept getting up every day speaking his truth anyway and have king finally concluded he would rather be dead than be afraid. those were his words. i would rather be dead than be afraid over where you die or when you die or how you die. you only control what you die for. i would like to believe that it's better to live for a cause than just the cause. that means you have to be willing to speak the truth, to seek it comes to speak it, to
stand on it and stay with it. those who think that somehow we hate on the president to hold them accountable if you read this book, if you read this book and you read what dr. king said about lyndon johnson and read what dr. king said to lyndon johnson and read the telegrams he sends to lyndon johnson and the press conference he had about lyndon johnson i have said nothing about barack obama, not a word compared to what king said about lyndon johnson. always in love but you have to hold people accountable. great presidents aren't born, they are made and left to their own devices they end up being body politicians and not statesmen. if you want a president who's going to be transformational and to do that you've got to push
them. there is no abraham lincoln without frederick douglass pushing him. there is no fdr without a philip randolph pushing him. there is no lbj without mlk pushing him. so you do it out of love but you have got to push to help the president lived up to their greatness. this is a cautionary tale. the price we pay when we ignore the people who love us enough and are willing to service enough and tell us the truth. we have to be ready at some point in time to deal with the truth. thank you for coming and thank you for listening and i appreciate it. [applause] >> thank you.
>> we have a few minutes for some q&a and let's jump right into it. questions and comments and then we'll find some books. >> thanks for coming to memphis. he said we are all familiar with the two speeches he has given his life. he used a phrase i think we all know which is that there was an island of poverty here and a sea of prosperity. what i have read his writings i felt what he was struggling toward in his time here in the last years of his life and i wanted to comment on this, when i have seen you speak, i felt what he was wrestling towards in terms of wrestling torch the truth he may not have been there yet but i feel like if he had been given more time he was headed in this direction and looking at our economics is sort
of a failed system. poverty was definitely on his radar and he was struggling to understand why it was so pervasive and what world the factors that were causing this problem that was threatening our democracy. could you talk a little bit more about where they think that's valid and if they see him as someone struggling towards the larger critique in general? if he had more time? ..
a state of to coty parkin in new york city but original tuz said up that tent city and he and thousands of others would stay on the national mall and live there to embarrass the federal government but the issue with johnson was you declare war on poverty but now vietnam and the resources to be squandered. the bombs that you drop their so he understood what he was up against was to be marginalized every single day. idaho much more you could have done how might things be different? but at this point to speak this kind of truth to already be marginalized i am a person of faith but to say
to us song in the war so must jesus bear the cross the load and all the world goes free. there is a cross for everyone and for me. even if your agnostic you get the point there is across we have to bear. the more we tell the truth the close you are to getting a bomb that cross. that is the way society works we don't want to know the truth have people trying to tell us but my history shows there is an empire in the history of the world, did not falter or fail and of it is our arrogance or hubris or narcissism now that has morphed into nationalism but we cannot even except your think about the fact that
johnnie hands to come down. so he said america may go to hell. so i don't know what that means long-term. >> what is the status of the freedom party today? >> i know the folks who were in that movement i'd love democracy now has the biggest their broadest national platform. they still do that to work to remind us that war is not
the answer it is not as rigorous as it ought to be said is not as vocal as it ought to be but number two when martin was speaking to a church full of clergy that as a prophetic voice of social justice issue that it once had but specifically not just black people but progresses' how is in the era of obama we have become silent? there is a difference that we have for this white house it is deafening.
i take you back to martin in riverside that says sometimes silence is betrayal we betray our country and best ideals and the president and certainly the black community to speak truth to power that we're doing something that we ought not to be doing but i am humbled about how my own community got to appoint that we are silent on the issue of war. to talk about non-violence and in this moment we are silent in black america.
for some leaders even support this effort but he never went into the white house. leaders now call themselves black leaders that is not black leadership of black accommodation. but he would challenge lyndon johnson. i was stunned at what martin king had the temerity to say. and he said it with a boldness i hope they observe your question.
>> what d.c. is the immediate impact who had turned against him? >> that is the brilliant question. some of the negro's started writing. the other half started crying. seriously. the day he died everybody was sad but the truth is he was so marginalized that they killed dr. king. what? and then said what has he been doing lately? where has he been?
he had been so off the radar of most people's lives he could not get the book deal and the last year of his life and he was shunned and could not get a speaking contractor or a book deal or a magazine from an excerpt. they shot him down. because he was so off the radar but everybody was sad. because it is easy. it is easy to honor the dead smarter so you can imagine with the press release and
telegrams that is what happened after he died. it's the same old story. next question. >> why do you think that prophetic voice is loss now and was lost then? to what extent was that orchestrated and deliver it? and that saved him. why have we lost that living faith and speaking the face now and then?
>> good question. there is the reason why they targeted, they knew the power was in his appeal and the message was read it -- resonating with people across the country and i should confess this to you now even organizing was difficult. his chief organizer here is how bad things got. the left dr. king went he walked away from him it crushed him. and then to say publicly but
trying to bring him down. and was adapted to our commitment the short answer is that everybody has a price. i have said to my friends that your soul is the most precious thing that you have. you have no position is as precious as your sole whatever it takes to protect that is what you have to do. don't sell your soul goes readier sold to let them steal your soul the matter what. dolls whole or in -- sell or
surrender or steal your soul. but to many of us have a price in our selling a to the highest bidder. we're selling our souls. this is the spiritual death because you have nothing to believe him. we cannot say one thing and do another. we have to always say what we believe into what we believe we cannot make that dichotomy. to talk about my own journey here it was funny to me to use my name as of verb is
somewhat funny that the not really because they say if you try to tell a little bit of truth. i'm not comparing myself to dr. king in a way but just with my own law courter day. from brother number one on one day i'd know what that feels like. keep doing your tv show or radio show. to give them death threats insecurity when you travel.
i know lot of folks get silent and sellout to the highest bidder but martin knew it was coming. there is the price to pay for not speaking the truth but for there is the price to pay for speaking the truth there is a greater price to pay not to. last question? >> they're making the run. i will talk to outside. i promise. >> beth find out who actually killed dr. king in this lifetime? >> still hold your breath. i don't know.
in 68 did you will read the epilogue. do not read the first. this may be the only book about dr. king. his name is not on the book because he is not relevant to the story we're telling. nothing of the monuments or what is to come. but i will close. and i hope again with most of the journey by himself will come to understand to embrace him and a new way. and i hope and i hope for us
as individuals understand with our own humanity until we can revel id dash community of every other. and sometimes tried to respect with the their humanity it means to tell the truth i will close the way i am make a commitment did your life not to put your life on the line but i am asking you to to the as you can pay i know we have