Sun-Times Library

Let us sing: Reflections on Dr. King

Let us sing a new song.


Let us sing, literally and also figuratively, until freedom rings. For I am reminded that songs can usher in revolutions, form the breath of social movements, become anthems for a great nation.

Songs are the soundtracks of life — create cascading waterfalls of precious moments and memories, from generation to generation. Songs compel us. Stir us. Fill us.

Songs reach into the deep recesses of the mind, reverberate to the soul. Rich with melodies and harmonies, songs spill across all boundaries — lifting, empowering, inspiring, reminding.

And as I reflect on Dr. King and the divide that still exists between the dream and us, nearly 50 years since his death, I am reminded of the songs we used to sing.

I am reminded that too many songs nowadays ring hollow, leave me longing for a song reflective of the passion of a man named King. For a song signaling a renewed movement toward fulfillment of his dream.

Nearly 47 years since he laid down his burdens and willed to us his magnificent “dream,” let us sing a new song in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.

A song of freedom. A song of justice and equality. A song birthed in the melodies of suffering, struggle and hope. A song bathed fully in the American dream.

Let us now sing a song of life rather than strife. A song that casts neither blame nor shame, but does not ignore our pain. A song that declares that wherever we go from here, we inevitably will rise — or fall-together, as one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for none, if not for all.

Let ours be a song of equality that rings from the mountaintops of Wall Street and corporate America to the valleys of every urban ghetto, to the impoverished hills of Appalachia. A song that comforts the afflicted, the hungered, the poor.

Let it be a song that breathes hope to those who make their bed with coats and blankets over steamy subway grates on icy nights, just blocks from the White House. A song that comforts the invisible who are tossed by the winds and waves of life to subterranean shadows of dark, cold streets, like Lower Wacker Drive.

And let us sing a song that celebrates our triumphs but does not forget our dark past. Nor the lessons it has taught us.

A song born from the tears and blood of innocents who died with one hand clutching freedom and the other shackled by slavery, and yet, their souls still pleading, “Let freedom ring.”

Let us sing a new song that tells the true tale of American history. A song that embodies the true American spirit: “My country tis’ of thee; Sweet land of liberty; Of thee I sing . . . ”

Let freedom finally ring.

Let us sing a song that reminds us of our kinship as children of one Creator, as fellow countrymen. Of that iridescent light called human dignity. Of the ground covered and gains made along this arduous journey toward freedom with rivers still to cross.

Let us sing as one nation, regardless of race, color or creed. Let it be a song that stamps out injustice, racism and all forms of bigotry.

And let our new song — once and for all — declare, “‘I’ am no greater than ‘you.’ And ‘You’ are no less than ‘me.’”

Songs in the key of life, not death. In the harmony of community, not the dissonant chord of chaos and disunity.

Let us now sing. Until freedom, at last rings, let us sing.


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