Everybody knows Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great leader, a great man, a great speaker.
What doesn’t get said enough, or noticed enough, or copied enough is how great a writer he was.
Beyond taking in the substance of his work, let his influence as a writer wash over you.
Let it affect not only your heart, let it affect what comes out on the keyboard.
Breathe in the cadence of his sentences.
Listen to the visuals he conjures in the air.
King’s genius as a writer was he was a speaker.
His genius as a speaker was he didn’t wave words around above his audience.
He spoke pictures.
He got into his audience’s mind.
He included them in the making of the speech.
He pounded out image after image, sometimes two and three to a sentence.
You didn’t listen to King speak you saw what he was saying.
You didn’t wonder what his point was, you saw it running in the imagination of your mind like a movie.
You didn’t hear about inequality of income, you saw ” the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination”.
You saw the “lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity”.
Take advantage of the great example he left.
Take in how to speak in poetry but be understood by a crowd.
No easy feat.
King built brilliant structure out of simple repetition.
I know you’ve heard it a million times, but read it.
Watch how he stacks up his argument in simple fundamental thoughts, then leans them right into his next point.
He can make you better.
Listen to this, again from the I Have a Dream speech from 1963:
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?:
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.”
We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Today is Martin Luther King Day.
But this man’s writing speaks every day.