King remembered at South Shore
Drawing inspiration from William Shakespeare, political scientist Jeff Lustig asked close to 50 people gathered at Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church Sunday, “not to bury Martin Luther King Jr., but to honor him.”
Lustig, a professor of government at Sacramento State University, called on the crowd to honor king’s achievements but said, “the right way to honor him is to remember the rabble-rousing, the troublemaking King, not to … whitewash him.”
King’s unpopularity during his life was stressed by Lustig, as a means to encourage recognition of institutionalized racism, which he said is still a problem.
Lustig quoted a Time Magazine article published in the 1960s to demonstrate the pervasive power of such racist beliefs.
“‘King’s criticisms are the work of a drawling bumpkin, so ignorant … he has been called from his native haunts and his natural calling,'” Lustig said. “This is from a national magazine! What do you think it means the natural calling is for a black man from … the south?”
It’s important to remember King’s message, he said, “But it’s harder now because the problem of legal discrimination is gone … that battle has been won.”
Lustig’s speech was part of the fourth Martin Luther King Jr. “interdenominational celebration” presented by The Lake Tahoe Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in conjunction with Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church and St. John’s in the Wilderness Episcopal Church.
Our Lady of Tahoe’s pastor, John Bain, said the event is exciting because it brings religions together. Dave Cahoon of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship agreed.
“Martin Luther King is certainly worth remembering,” he said.
Before Lustig’s speech, Cahoon asked people in the audience to light candles below a picture of King “in remembrance of their sorrows and joys.”
Several people did so, including Kevin Massey, of South Lake Tahoe, who wanted to honor King, but also remember his father who died exactly one year ago today.
Former South Lake Tahoe Mayor Margo Osti also lit a candle and said, “I have rights today that I wouldn’t have if not for (Martin Luther King Jr.)”
It was Osti who asked Lustig to speak Sunday night. As a former student of Lustig, Osti remembered his teaching fondly.
“This guy got hosed down in the 60s, so he has lived it, he knows what he is talking about,” she said.
While an undergraduate in California during the 1960s, Lustig said he was active in the civil rights movement and was involved in a number of demonstrations.
“This is a wonderful time to come together as a community and to celebrate our humanity,” Osti said.
Lustig said he was grateful that Osti asked him to speak because it forced him to study King more deeply.
“I am not an expert on King,” he said. “I am a student of American political thought and political protest.”
Lustig opened and closed his speech invoking an idea of King’s – written in “A Letter From a Birmingham Jail” – that, “we are all … tied in a single garment of destiny.”
“I know that King said he had been to the mountain, but I don’t think he meant Tahoe,” Lustig joked. “But we are all tied to events (in the south) by a fabric of human concerns.”
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