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With This Faith:
Requiem For Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Ja A. Jahannes
Savannah, Georgia

With This Faith -- Requiem For Martin Luther King, Jr. was performed originally in Savannah, Georgia in January, 2008, with libretto by Ja A. Jahannes. The work has traditional gospel interludes between narrated sections and instrumental accompaniment.
From all the prophets of yesterday
Came the call,
From Amos,
From the Apostle Paul,
From Jesus the Christ,
Through Mahatma Gandhi, the ascetic,
Came the call
To him, to him.
In 1955, testing the waters --
When Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a bus --
To him
Came the call
To lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
To him,
A twenty-six year old preacher,
Came the call,
Not to listen to the voice but to be the voice
Of prophecy;
Not to listen to the voice but to be the voice
Of transformation;
Not to listen to the voice but to be the voice
Of spiritual courage
In this age,
To the present generation of men,
In this age
To speak the Word
That men’s hearts would be pricked.
In this age
To speak the Word
That the consciences of the wicked would be pierced.
In this age
To speak the Word
That principalities of hate and greed
Would throw off their quilts of discord
And heed the call.
Son of a preacher man,
Son of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr.
Who was the son of a preacher man.
The Word was in him.

Son of Atlanta, Georgia.
Son of Selma, Alabama.
Shepherd of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Called at twenty-four to pastor.
Son of Ebenezer Baptist Church,
His father’s pulpit
His text was taken from Benjamin E. Mayes:
Educator, social activist- Phi Beta Kappa.
He was a Morehouse College man.
His classroom, the meeting halls of the South,
And Chester Crozier Theological Seminary.
He drank from the fountains of Systematic Theology
At Boston University, receiving the doctorate of philosophy;
Moved by his teachers,
Philosophers and statesmen.
His mantra was freedom.
From Selma to Montgomery
His mantra was freedom.
From Montgomery to Memphis.
His mantra was freedom.
From Birmingham to Cambridge
His mantra was freedom.
From Accra to Oslo.
Youngest man to receive the Noble Peace Prize.
His mantra was freedom.
From Detroit to Da Nang.
He made it "incandescently clear,"
He opposed an unjust war.
His mantra was freedom.

He called to an age
Where darkness found comfort.
He spoke of light,
Light to guide our feet;
Marching toward justice,
Light to lift our eyes,
Looking toward freedom,
Light to end our suffering,
Moving toward healing
Light to light our journey,
With shared humanity.
He called on love
To sing a new song.
He called on love
To beat out a new pulse.
He called on love
To send up a new prayer;
A prayer full of the hope that the past had glimpsed,
A prayer full of the promise that the day had born,
A prayer full of goodness constrained by mercy,
That tomorrow will trumpet.
In an age where love is shy,
He led us to our knees in prayer.
He wanted us to love until the sky glows with grace.
In this time when war is born new in each hour in our lives, in our lands,
He prayed that peace finds a perfect place in our hearts.
He prayed that the words of our mouths be blessed with kindness,
That our songs soar in symphonies of reconciliation and healing.
He prayed that our children see our examples;
He prayed that school doors be opened wide
Letting all inside.
He prayed that the walls of separation come down.
(Separate but equal was never equal.)
He spoke from a Birmingham jail.

He prayed and he marched.
He marched ahead of the courts.
He marched ahead of the nation's sentiment.
He marched ahead of the nation's moral tide.
He marched.
We marched.
He marched.
We marched with him.
We marched behind him.
We marched beside him.
He prayed and marched.
We prayed and marched.
And God heard the thundering feet
Of Black mothers coming up from the sidewalks
Marching to his call.

God heard the tapping feet of young children
Stepping out onto dreams of pride.
God heard the lamentations of men denied their humanity
Marching to his call.
God heard the exhortations from the pulpits of America.
God heard the exhortations from the synagogues.
God heard the exhortations from the mosques,
And the gatherings of people of faith everywhere
Echoing his call.
Citizens of a community of purpose,
Praising the perfect will of our Father,
Committing ourselves to His love,
Committing ourselves to action,
Committing ourselves
To preserve the rich endowment of God's great earth
For all His peoples.
Echoing his call
That our cities be havens of joy
Harbors of harmony;
Echoing his call
That division be bound,
That misunderstandings dissolve.
Echoing his call
For clarity over confusion.
Echoing his call.

His voice rang out over the nation.
He went up to the mountaintop,
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
Up on the Potomac in Washington --
Amidst two hundred and fifty thousand foot soldiers
For justice and nonviolence -- who stood with him
As the nation learned again the meaning of liberty
And brotherhood and equality;
Those humble masses still yearning to be free.
He was the advocate for the young and the old
Wherever they may be.
He was the advocate for the black, the brown, the poor,
In America, Africa, Asia and across the seas.
His mule train rehearsed his own martyrdom.
His voice blended with the gospel.
The liturgy was steeped in tradition alive in the small black churches
As well as the repository of freedom, the Constitution.
He called for the reserve that guaranteed the check
Democracy wrote;
Pleaded that weapons of destruction be replaced
By negotiations of the heart and reason,
That wars cease,
That the silence of righteous men and women
Be overcome by bold voices for peace
And that peace breaks out to claim humanity.
He had a dream.
(Deeply rooted in the American dream.)
He spoke to freedom everywhere.
He spoke of our shared destiny as our purest impulse.
He said:
Let us have a new faith,
Deeply rooted in spiritual precept,
A faith shaped by charity,
A faith ratified by unselfish devotion to family,
A new faith.
With this faith let us look back on our dark midnights
And embrace a new, undaunting dawn.
With this faith let us look back on centuries of sunsets
And face glorious sunrises.
With this faith let us look back on years of noble struggle
And face years of promise still.
With this faith let us build bridges of understanding.
With this faith let us build towers to truth.
With this faith let men and women, boys and girls,
Let red and brown and black and white,
Strive for justice, strive for right.
Let a new world arise; let a new day be born.
Let God be pleased with us.
Let God be pleased.

Dr. Ja A. Jahannes is poet, writer of fiction and nonfiction, psychologist, educator and a social critic. He is a frequent columnist, and his work has appeared in diverse publications and anthologies. Dr. Jahannes has lectured throughout the U. S., in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East and Europe.

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Published in In Motion Magazine January 14, 2011

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