MLK was a democratic socialist? Rev. Sekou argues the civil rights movement is a myth consisting of lies

Photo courtesy of Manchester University

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, a Martin Luther King scholar, had a voice which cracked the atmosphere of Joseph Theater and revealed what he called the “fundamental assumption of lies told to young people surrounding the mythology of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), Ferguson and Black Lives Matter”  this past Tuesday, Feb. 27. The Black Lives Matter activist began with a comedic lie stating that some think everyone over the age of 40 marched with MLK on the bridge in Selma.

“If all the people were on the bridge, who say they were on the bridge, that thing would have collapsed,” said Sekou.

The lies were revealed — and the truth was told, according to Rev. Sekou.

  1. Many think that MLK was more a capitalist. The truth is that MLK was a Democratic Socialist.
  2. Many think that social media is a movement, like the #BlackLivesMatter “movement” which began with the acquittal of George Zimmerman. The truth is that a movement only has weight and significance if black bodies are in the street willing to go to jail and putting their bodies on the line.
  3. Many think that Black churches had a huge role in the the civil rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. This is not true.
  4. Many think that there was no violence surrounding MLK’s stance. The truth is that there were riots, protests and other forms violence.
  5. There are many from the older generation that don’t like millennials and think they are “idiots,” including Rev. Sekou himself. But the truth is that each new generation has something unique. This group of millennials has a sense of political consciousness and intersectionality (and have discussed and analyzed gender identity).

“The black freedom movement did not begin when Trayvon Martin was killed. It did not begin when Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown and left his body in the street for four and a half hours. It begins when the first slave gets off the boat.” – Rev. Sekou

The public discourse has construed MLK’s legacy, and young people are responding to what they would have liked to have happened — the myth, not history, Rev. Sekou said.

MLK was more of a democratic socialist. MLK was more committed to Marxist ideas and had great praise for the utopian novel of socialist Edward Belleme. MLK met with Marxist thinker C. L. R. James as well and James said that he was a Democratic Socialist.

MLK’s rating was 12% in late 1966 and rose to 95% in 1999 — deeming him one of the most admired people in the world, second only to Mother Teresa. Between 1960 and 1968, around 60% of Americans were against the Civil Rights Movement and thought MLK and other civil rights leaders were the cause. MLK’s average rating was 44% while Black Lives Matter is 47%.

Black Lives Matter is largely women led and queer people are more visible. This was not the case with the Civil Rights Movement, but Rev. Sekou did recognize the work of Rosa Parks and queer Bayard Rustin.

“There were always women leading the civil rights movement except for when there were camera and microphones,” Rev. Sekou said.

Leader of the National Baptist Convention Joseph Jackson, hated MLK and was a part of the political machine in Chicago that did not want civil rights to be a part of the National Baptist Convention organizational infrastructure. This lie about the churches misleads young activists, who expect to see evidence of the Black Freedom Movement in the church.

“Riots are the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

When MLK goes north to the Watts riots, he recognizes that this is how the movement gets attention.

“I don’t like millennials; I doesn’t trust them; I love them; I believe in them, but I generally think that they are some idiots,” said Rev. Sekou .

He did commend them for being organizers. Millennials have learned how to start social movements through occupying public space and rejecting traditional leadership.

“You have the possibility to create a different kind of world — a world in which no one’s identity is told to wait,” he said.

How can the Gettysburg College campus make an impact?

“There are 200 faculty on campus and only eight of them are black — that’s a great place to start.” – Rev. Sekou 


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