"Heed Their Rising Voices" Once Again

"Heed Their Rising Voices" Once Again
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March 29th, 1960, a full-page ad, HEED THEIR RISING VOICES, was run by “The Committee To Defend Martin Luther King, Jr.” It was a fund-raising appeal to raised moneys to fund the costs of the defense of the criminal indictment of Dr. King for alleged tax evasion and perjury in connection with the filing of his State of Alabama Tax Return.

It was our assistance, as a “law clerk” to the eminent criminal defense attorney, Judge Hubert T. Delaney’s defense of Dr. King that initiated our subsequent 7 and half year’s journey and relationship with him as a political advisor, personal lawyer and draft speech writer.

Excerpts from the ad are recited below. The ad contained minor factual errors in its description of the events that took place in Montgomery, AL. On this basis of these factual errors, the then Commissioner of Public Safety in Montgomery, AL sued the New York Times, Dr. King and top associates in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC)

The result of the suit ended up in the United States Supreme Court. In 1964, Justice Brennen writing for the majority dismissed the libel case and established what remains today as the controlling law today on libel in the case of public officials claiming their “reputations” have been “damaged” by such ads of other public criticisms of actions in their official capacities.

Among other things the ad said:

As the whole world knows by now, thousands of Southern Negro students are engaged in wide-spread non-violent demonstrations in positive affirmation of the right to live in human dignity as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

In their efforts to uphold these guarantees, they are being met by an unprecedented wave of terror by those who would deny and negate that document which the whole world looks upon as setting the pattern for modern freedom….

Their courage and amazing restraint have inspired millions and given a new dignity to the cause of freedom.

Small wonder that the Southern violators of the Constitution fear this new, non-violent brand of freedom fighter…even as they fear the up swelling right-to-vote movement.

Small wonder that they are determined to destroy the one man who, more than any other, symbolizes the new spirit now sweeping the South-the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., world-famous leader of the Montgomery Bus Protest.

For it is his doctrine of non-violence which has inspired and guided the students in their widening wave of sit-ins; the philosophy and technique of non-violent resistance.

But this is one of those moments in the stormy history of Freedom when men and women of good will must do more than applaud the rising-to-glory of others.

The America whose good name hangs in the balance before a watchful world, the America whose heritage of Liberty these Southern Upholders of the Constitution are defending, is our America as well as theirs…

We must heed their rising voices-yes-but we must add our own.

March 15th, 1965, in his speech to a Special Join Session of Congress introducing The 1965 Voting Rights Act, following efforts by African Americans to register to vote in Selma, AL, President Lyndon B. Johnson said:

“I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.

I urge every member of both parties—Americans of all religions and of all colors—from every section of this country—to join me in that cause.

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem”

Why do I reference these two events above? Because, it is clear that one again, one more time, the moral conscience of American must be summoned.

Are we going to merely sit by, wring our hands, tweet, Instagram, and write messages on Facebook about our feelings of indignation about this that latest travesty of justice, indignity occurring in our midst? Or are we going to put down our IPhone just for a minute, unless being used to mobilize, opposition on the ground to the “madness” which seeks to masquerade as “normal”, in connection with real issues like excessive use of force by some of our police, like the attacks upon the reputation of persons like NFL quarterback Colin Kapernick, and the outrageous defense of statues commemorating the treasonous insurrection of leaders of the Confederacy efforts to maintain and nationalize the institution of slavery?

To those over 65, in my age group, it’s time for us to “suit up” just one more time. Forget about the next golf game or cruise you are planning. Our children and grandchildren need us, once again, to organize, to take to the streets, in massive peaceful non-violent resistance to the current madness which seeks to become normalized.

Have we not witnessed enough gun violence? We may be on Medicare, but don’t count on it.

We have to let our young athletes with a social conscience know that we stand behind them.

Most of all we have to share with our children and grandchildren that tweeting and cell phoning, Facebooking and Instagraming, UNLESS in the service of door to door grassroots voter registration will not make ANY material difference in terms of access to, or the acquisition and exercise of political power.

Every cell phone, Instagram, Facebook, internet user, who is NOT A REGISTERED VOTER, is useless and irrelevant to the acquisition and exercise of political power. A Voter Registration Card and actual voting is more power than Facebook or an IPhone


Heed The Rising Voices of Our Children and Grandchildren

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