The man behind the name: Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King

On January 17, 2022, the national holiday, celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I would like to share personal reflections and a poetic tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:

 . . . the man behind the name

the name

the good brother

hammered out his

“Here I stand,

I can do none other. . .”

and forged “A mighty fortress”

the name

the same name

thunders through four centuries

anchored with a surname

a paradox,


nature of a servant/King

the name

weight of that name

the burden of the same name

obligation to be true

to one’s namesake

as Ellison’s hidden name and complex fate

resounds from age to age the same–

the battle cry to defy the status quo

more than the name

is the memory of the man

behind the name

reflections on the man

behind the name

mirror commonalities

threads intertwine in black and gold

the life of this preacher,

teacher of the Word,

Walker’s prophet for a new day,

husband, father, mentor, and more:

fellow-laborer in the Lord,

fellow bondslave and brother

heeding the higher calling

first of all,

servants of all,

we shall transcend all

. . . the man behind the name

the man

praying, preaching,

leading through troubled waters

following in the steps of Christ,

along the higher path of love

the man

     buked and scorned,

called everything,

including a child of God,

tested, arrested, tried, and sentenced

penning his letter from a Birmingham jail

the man

sitting down and standing up,      

protesting and marching and singing

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me ’round!

Keep on marchin’; keep on movin’;

keep on marchin’ toward the freedom land

from Selma to Montgomery to Memphis

where he waved and smiled the last time

the man. . .the man. . .the man

uprooting burdock and stinkweed,

bitter roots of prejudice

that blight the land

planting peace lilies instead

the man

images forever etched in my mind

an eloquent, passionate dreamer

working to weave into reality

his multi-colored dream of possibility

the vista of that gathering

with echoes of his oration

before the People of Promise

arm-over-arm, hand-in-hand

swaying in rhythmic waves

across the multitude of faces

singing softly in unison

this choir of celestial voices

“. . . Black and white together. . .”

embracing refrains from the anthem of his age:

We shall overcome

We shall overcome

We shall overcome, someday.

Oh, deep in my heart I do believe

We shall overcome, someday.

In thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King, a particular phrase comes to mind. Without question, “to serve” is one of the most powerful verbs in the English language. Listen to this excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct,” an unforgettable sermon by Dr. King, whose life and ministry embodied the beauty and simplicity of the words “To serve,” the hallmark of his life.

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One Response to “The man behind the name: Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King”

  1. Brenda Joyce Johnson Says:

    This a wonderful tribute!! Thank you for sharing it with me.

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