MLK 2015 29th Annual Interfaith Community Program: Keynote Address by Frederick J. Barrow
Frederick Barrow delivered the 2015 MLK Observance in Tyler, Texas. Mr. Barrow is an attorney who wants to plant seeds that grow into trees and later, a park. We need to be a “community of love and change,”… and we have to work together like this Catholic Diocese is friends with Tyler Together Race Relations Forum, according to Barrow. He jokingly promised to be brief, no matter how long it takes. First Barrow saluted the incoming local NAACP director, Cedric Granberry, as Earnest Deckard is stepping down after 24 years in that position. Then our attorney asked us to ask our neighbor, “What cha doin’ here?” He observed that different races have different reasons somewhat. We’re called on this day to re-commitment and enlistment; to service we are called.
Frederick J. Barrow actually met one of Martin Luther King’s advisors—coincidentally, he came from the his same little hometown in Lousiana, but met after he moved to Dallas. That MLK advisor remembered when James Brown donated 18 18-wheelers to donate free toys in Atlanta! Dr. King had scars on his arms from the dog attacks in Alabama. Truly, they laid their bodies down.
Attorney Barrow alluded to Dr. King’s voluminous writings well beyond the famous “I Have a Dream” speech; it’s “Tengo un sueno” in Spanish. He mentioned Dr. King talked about peace and justice. You can go to the Stanford Martin Luther King Papers Project within this site http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/ and find out for yourself. Mr. Barrow cited the Oxford Dictionary definition for peace as “freedom from disturbance, tranquility.” Then he moved on to his main MLK speech for the address, “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious (1956)” http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/when_peace_becomes_obnoxious_sermon_delivered_on_18_march_1956/
This MLK talk was based on when the first African-American student tried to enroll at the University of Alabama, and the hostility that followed. Eggs were thrown; cars were jumped upon. Then the president of the University of Alabama told her to leave for her sake and the sake of the university.
This wasn’t a case of true peace but “mobocracy.” The movement “capitulated to darkness.” Such peace stinks to God, as revealed in Matthew 10:34 when Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword. Does peace make you a second-class citizen? Do you keep your mouth shut and accept humiliation and a lesser economic status?
There were riots during the civil rights movement, but it’s necessary to be vigorous in condemning the riots as well as the social conditions that led to the violent activity. A riot is the language of the unheard. (Maybe they didn’t try or couldn’t speak). Non-Violent Direct Action is what Dr. King favored, according to Barrow. Confront issues by meeting with representatives, going to city hall, and marching. To not practice civil disobedience is to be against the Constitution. We must uphold it against unjust state laws. There are four issues that we need to address: (1) Is it a just grievance or just creating confusion? (2) Are we ready to eliminate by petition and be ready to accept the consequences? (3) Do we have a clear program to relieve injustice that’s reasonable and grounded in ethics? and (4) To break a law that conscience (liang-chih) says is unjust is the highest respect for the law.
In the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King noted that the civil rights fighters were not creators of tension but brought it to attention. Rev. King had support from all schools of ethics. What if his approach worked before the rise of Nazi Germany? Power lays dormant when folks don’t do anything. Love becomes transcendent when we come together.
Recently, we’ve undergone disturbing interactions between the police and unarmed Black men. Our attorney has had a policeman for a roommate, so he knows how police put their lives on the line for people they don’t know. We’ve all heard about Ferguson, “I Can’t Breathe” in New York, and Cleveland, but Attorney Barrow brought up a much lesser-known atrocity in New Iberia, Louisiana—his home state.. Some young Black man supposedly shot himself to death in a police car, despite having his hands handcuffed behind him. Attorney Barrow has met the mother of Trayvon Martin at national bar meetings, and he offers his prayers to all parents.
Martin Luther King proclaimed that we can’t have a first class nation with second class citizens. It’s a powder keg for Blacks to be living in depression. George W. Bush felt the Garner case was hard to understand. Condoleeza Rice noted that there’s less trust between Blacks and the police. Those two are Republicans—reporter’s note. It’s obvious that Bull Connor to use attack dogs and water hoses against the peaceful civil rights demonstrators. It should be just as obvious if someone of another race becomes your new neighbor. It hurts the power holder to hold someone down.
Attorney Barrow explained “The Talk” that African-American parents have to give their children. In his case, it included telling his young son not to make space shooter noises in public because somebody might think you’re a real bad guy. Mr. Barrow once got a road rage warning while he was following an acquaintance to the Wal-Mart ranch in Arkansas. Sure it was irritating, but he emphasized how worse the incident could have been.
Frederick Barrow cited Andrew Young’s concerns about the high cost of college; the SOTU address happens at virtually the same day as MLK Day. One could be $100,000 in debt if you get a master’s—and that affects plenty of people—White also. Education is a birthright, not a handout, and we need a level playing field.
Forgiveness and reconciliation must happen. White America won’t be free until we forgive them. We need straight talk on the key issues of the day. Are we willing to take lashes and death threats like the leaders of the Sixties? Cowardice asks if it’s safe. Vanity asks if it’s popular. Schemers ask if it’s politically correct. Let freedom ring.
Attorney Frederick J. Barrow gave a wonderful keynote address at the 2015 Martin Luther King Observance in Tyler Texas at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Tyler, Texas. This event gives annual pride to the residents of the largest city in East Texas. Let’s hope the inspiration is remembered.