Roy Exum: Where Was Our Dr. King?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

In Huntsville, Ala., yesterday there were over 1,300 people who gathered at the Von Braun Center to “eat, pray, laugh and applaud” what the city has done in over a quarter-century for racial unity. They’ve been having the Martin Luther King breakfast there for 29 straight years and this year they honored a priest and a cop, if you can imagine that, as the top role models. Afterwards everybody spent a great part of the day to volunteer for service projects in and around the city.

In Baltimore the guest speaker was Shirley Sherrod, the woman who was once fired by the USDA after a video surfaced of her making racist remarks against whites. The video turned out to be a vicious fraud, and after being brazenly embarrassed, she was offered her job back but now she has a higher calling – her book, and her message, are called “The Courage To Hope.” Wouldn’t you have loved to hear her story and learn what it is that she hopes?

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said at Ebenezer Baptist yesterday that Dr. King would implore children to stay in school and learn the message: "You are not going to school just to study math, you're going to school to be somebody." Our United States has never needed inner city “somebodies” quite as badly.

Cities all across America joined together to honor Dr. King’s life and his legacy on Monday and, while I hope I am wrong, I couldn’t seem to find a similar gathering in honor of Dr. King in Chattanooga. Lord knows we need one right about now because by my gauge a lot of feelings around town are still hurt.

We’ve just taken what we were told are the “worst of the worst” off the streets and we’ve got those who unfortunately try to turn real crime into a racial cauldron instead. We’ve still got children who are shooting children. We have the promising “High Point” Initiative and we have a special prosecutor that suddenly must trade barbs with the dues-hungry NAACP.

Now we are faced with the promise of “the next wave” of a criminal roundup but I can’t seem to find where we – as a community of white and black political leaders, business owners, educators and judges – are embracing Dr. King’s great plea: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

If ever Chattanooga needed to turn on the love-light, it is now. The Times Free Press just laid our souls bare with its special “Speak No Evil” section. The eight-page section proved “There is a code in the inner city of Chattanooga and people are dying to keep it.” It only stands to reason that Dr. King was so right when he famously said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I believe that if our churches would band together in a concerted way, by this time next year maybe we could have a unity breakfast at the Convention and Trade Center every bit as big and just as important as our annual Prayer Breakfast every spring. Don’t you remember Dr. King also said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

We desperately need to talk to one another, not in what morphed into some shout-out at the Bethlehem Center or a near-riot in our courtroom over a guilty verdict but as “brothers” and “sisters” who honestly want to help one another. Anyone who has read Dr. King’s speeches or marveled at his grace understands the meaning of every word when he said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

I believe Mayor Andy Berke is quietly doing a lot of good things for our city. I really do. And I’m a big fan of former Howard School principal Paul Smith and his effort to teach our community about how the High Point program will pay such dividends if we embrace it. But I also believe that until Chattanooga can have an MLK Breakfast where the only requisite is that you promise to sit next to some “new friend” of a different color we will never get as far as so many cities that “eat, pray, laugh, and applaud” each other in memory of America’s wonderful man of hope, Dr. Martin Luther King.

* * *

“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

royexum@aol.com


Roy Exum: One Nameless Ghost

One hundred years ago the United States was at war. The most intense fighting during World War I was on what was called The Western Front. The Germans wanted to invade France from the north and in order to do it, they had to push through Flanders province in Belgium. It has been described as a hell unequalled in raw hand-to-hand combat, In just four months on Flanders fields, ... (click for more)

Remembering Mitch Beard On Memorial Day

A little over two years ago, my friend Mitchell "Mitch" Beard passed away from injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident at 24 years old. This was not as it should be. Mitch had made it through war. He was a combat-decorated United States Marine who served in Afghanistan. I first met Mitch when I was a college student at Tennessee Temple in 2004. Mitch’s parents, Steve ... (click for more)

Strong Thunderstorm Causes Damage, Power Outages In Dalton

Shortly before  5 p.m. , a strong thunderstorm went through downtown Dalton, knocking down numerous trees, causing power outages and also causing damage. At this time, no injuries have been reported.  The Dalton Fire Department and Dalton Police Department responded to multiple reports of damage. The DPD closed several roads due to downed trees and power lines. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Honors Military Veterans

A Memorial Day service was held at the National Cemetery on Monday. (click for more)

Seth Ruhling Wins Chattanooga Chase 8K And One Mile

It has been six years since Seth Ruhling ran the Chattanooga Chase and maybe he had forgotten just how tough that 8K course really is, but that’s didn’t seem to matter Monday morning as he celebrated Memorial Day with victory in the Chattanooga Track Club’s oldest race. Ruhling graduated from Collegedale Academy in 2013 and is now a 21-year-old student at Southern Adventist ... (click for more)

Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic Set For Saturday at CCS

The 13th Annual Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic, presented by Great Clips, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday June 4 at Chattanooga Christian School in Chattanooga. Tennessee defeated Georgia 38-14 last June at McCallie School in Chattanooga. It was Tennessee's fourth consecutive victory in the series that dates back to the first game held at Ridgeland High in ... (click for more)