The calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak…

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his first major public statement against the Vietnam War, aptly entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” right here in Uptown, NYC at the venerable Riverside Church. Starting off the magnificent sermon with “my conscience leaves me no other choice,” King, in no uncertain terms, denounced the Vietnam War as immoral, grotesque and anti-democratic. He would be assassinated within the year, exactly to the date of the sermon, on April 4, 1968. By speaking so eloquently and forcibly against the war, he was deemed worthy of elimination by the powers that be. King paid the ultimate price for his outspokenness. He could not remain silent then and we cannot remain silent now as “silence is betrayal.” WE MUST SPEAK!!!

“Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.”

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