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Striving to reach the ‘Promised Land’

In April of 1968 I was living in Cleveland, Ohio with my family. My father was the pastor of a medium size church and my mother was the church administrator. My father also worked as a U. S. Postman and my mother also worked for the Internal Revenue Service in downtown Cleveland.

Our family also had a paper route. I am sure it was mine, but I needed help, and thank God they helped me.

We had a paper route in the morning with The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the evening with The Cleveland Press. It was not the biggest route, but it was mine.

The day we will never forget was Friday, April 5, 1968. It was Thursday, April 4, 1968, a little after 6 p.m., that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Loraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was rushed to the hospital where he did die about an hour later. He was there in support of the sanitation workers strike.

He had come about a month earlier and they had a march but a young black man had died, so he left.

This was a redo, if you will, and the hope was for no violence. Instead, he was shot and hit in the jaw with the assassin’s bullet and it continued until it severed his spinal cord. He was only 39 years old.

The very night before he had given the “I’ve Been the Mountaintop” speech. That is when he said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.

I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land! So, I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

Twenty-four hours later he was dead.

Have you ever wondered what he saw up on the mountaintop? What did he see when he said, “I have seen the Promised Land?”

Now of course I have no idea, but it does not stop me from thinking about it. I was in school when we talked about it the next day. My mother made me keep one of the newspapers I delivered that day. I still have it today. She sat me down, and told me to never forget what happened that day. She told me that there was a brighter day ahead.

I don’t know if that is the reason, but reading and studying about Dr. King, and Black History in general has been my passion. I have tried to pattern my life after Jesus Christ, Dr. Martin L. King, and my father, Bishop Claude Cummings. I don’t know how well I’ve done, but nobody can say I have not tried.

I have talked to the taxi driver that came to pick up some of the people at the Loraine Motel to take them to dinner. I have stood on the same balcony that Dr. King stood on that fatal day. The hotel has now become a Black History Museum. Still, with all my study, I don’t really know what he saw in his vision.

Did he see an African-American President of the United States named Barack Obama, a community organizer, attorney, and politician from Chicago, Illinois, who would become the 44th president? President Obama once said, “The change we seek will take longer than one term or one presidency. Real change–big change–takes many years and requires each generation to embrace the obligations and opportunities that come with the title of Citizen.” How far ahead did Dr. King see?

Did he see the first African-American Vice President, Kamala Harris, a politician and attorney who is now the 49th VP of the USA?

She is also the United States’ first female vice president, the highest-ranking female elected official in U.S. history, and the first Asian American vice president. Giving hope to all women and men, that just because it has never happened before, does not mean it cannot happen.

It is possible he did not see any of it. I was not sure I would see it myself.

Maybe he saw the riots that happened in Cleveland the night of his death. Maybe he saw the marches and riots that happened all through 2020.

Maybe he saw that in the 1960s it was mainly Blacks with a few Whites marching.

Maybe he saw that in 2020 it was almost as many Whites as it was Blacks marching for what they felt was injustice?

Maybe he saw Black doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, business and community leaders, and so much more. Maybe he saw something that has not happened yet?

Maybe he saw a better world, where no one is judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character? Maybe he saw that we need every color of the rainbow to make a better world?

I don’t know what he saw, but he called it the Promised Land. I want to not only see it; I want to experience it. Hope to see you there in the Promised Land!

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