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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  April 7, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT

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good evening, from new york, i'm tavis smiley. 50 years ago, martin luther king jr. delivered his speech just moments away from this studio, a courageous conscience on where this country was going, tonight we continue our week-long discussion remembering the anniversary of dr. king's speech, speaking with a special guest about his anti-war pro social justice theme. engaging where america is 50 years later, and what dr. king called the triple threat. we'll look back at king's vietnam speech, with otis moss
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jr., in just a moment. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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i'm delighted tonight to be joined by the reverend dr. otis moss, jr., pastor of the famed baptist church and a lifelong participant in the human rights struggle. and dr. moss, it is an honor to have you on our program. >> thank you, and thank you for all the work you do. >> thank you, sir, i had forgotten as long as i had known you, i had forgotten that dr. king eulogized your first wife, officiated the marriage to you and your second wife. how did you and dr. king became friends? >> i entered moore house 16 years after his graduation, and among the first people i met happened to have been dr. king's father, his mother, his brother and his sister. and from that meeting, well you
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could not go to moorehouse without meeting the king family, but after that introduction we became friends, and dr. king became daddy king to all of us. and the friendship grew into the participation in the civil rights, human rights struggle. i met dr. king in 1955, september at a baptist convention. everybody was talking about it, preaching and praying about the lynching of emmet till. that was the theme, the conversation, officially and on the ground and in the hallways. a few months later the montgomery movement was born. fast forward, at my graduation
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adam clayton powell jr. was commencement speaker. >> i'm just laughing, because all of these -- adam clayton powell was your commencement speaker? >> yes, he closed his address and we're talking now about 60 years ago-plus. saying to us, this was 1956, i want you to go out of here with a sense of mission. martin luther king jr. is waiting for you to come and march with him. to some of us that was a lifetime charge. and i can say i say -- with pardonable pride, some of us joined the movement and we have not turned back. >> may i pick this book up for just a second? >> yes. >> i'm glad you brought this with you. i had the speech i've been holding every night this week because i want to get into some of this with you, some of his words. i have been a lifelong student of kings and didn't have the
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pleasure of knowing him and being a friend like you did. i collected so much memorabilia, a lot of things signed by him by none by him as a friend the way you do. this is a copy of where do we go from here? chaos or community? and just on the inside cover, can you read that? i want you to see all the things i collected are signed martin l. king, jr., yours just said martin. i wanted to bring it out, just to show thank you for this, it's a piece of history. thank you for bringing that from cleveland with you. you made the point that powell sent you all out with this mandate to turn your life into a mission which you have done and you have not stopped.
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but what do you make of where we are as a nation, 50 years after, king raised this notion of a triple threat facing our democracy, racism, poverty and militarism. >> immediately following dr. king's assassination, i maintained that the movement went into a period, some would even say an era of bereavement. many things happen in bereavement, tears, silence, irrational behavior sometimes, anger and hostility. and if you do not work through that bereavement with a spiritual undergirding and the
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kind -- a special kind of emptiness and reassessment of who you are, where you are and what you must do the disciples locked themselves up in a room. and waited and something special happened within a period of 40 days. and they went out ready to die, not to kill, but ready to die. based upon what they had been taught, what they had committed themselves to and what had been renewed in their lives. it would have been great if we had had a kind of formal intentional period of that kind of process following dr. king's death. but we did -- i suppose the best that we could, and many great
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things happened. but, like reconstruction and post-reconstruction the forces of evil did not give up. and they have not given up. so they began to look at ways and means of erasing everything that was achieved and they have not given up. and we are challenged every day to protect the victories won, and win new victories. but in doing that sometimes we will make three steps forward, two steps backward, but you are still one step ahead. and hope, humor, faith, courage
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and determination must remain alive in our lives and communities and our movements because children, grandchildren must receive a clear message and a clear trumpet sound on what has happened, what is happening now, much of which is tragic and dangerous. but we must pass on to them as best we can that new mission in every age, every generation, the struggle is never over. >> i wonder if we really are to your great naanalogy, one step ahead as we are sitting in the era of donald trump, are we really one step ahead when you talk about the three evils that dr. king discussed. racism, poverty, i still think
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it's still here, most americans think we lost ground even in the era of the first black president. so if racism is still the most tractable matter in this country and poverty a matter of national security, what does it say about america? and the industrial complex is bigger than it ever was, and disabuse me of the notion that we really are not one step ahead. >> well, often it's difficult to see that one step ahead especially if you look out the window of your door and see a lynching. it may be in a different form. but it's there, it may be in prisons for profit. it may be the ddebilitation of
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community, but there is always even at the worst hour of our history there is always that remnant that keeps rising up. that keeps rising up and coming forth in ways unexpected. no one expected a rosa parks nor a martin luther king jr. and well wethere were forces to this will not be. a part of our mission is to keep the story alive. keep the narrative before people and somebody will join the truth. somebody will join the movement. somebody will catch on to what we are trying to project. many will miss it. remember, dr. king on the day of his assassination had said to the secretary at ebenezer, the
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subject of his next sermon, why america may go to hell. what a challenge and what a prophetic lifting up of where we were then. and if he could come back he could preach the same sermon. >> let's just take a second here and unpack that. because you just put something out that i know viewers some of them are shocked by it. they never heard it before. so i am glad you said it. 50 years ago this week dr. king was in this city just a few miles down the road to give this beyond vietnam speech at the riverside church. the next day all hell broke loose, all the papers came after him, for the next year of his life it was a living hell. these were the consequences of his speech, uninvited to speak at black churches, his organization goes bankrupt, they
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can't raise money. hoover has plants inside his own organization. they would not publish his book or run op-eds, the last poll taken of his life, the harris poll found that nearly three quarter s of america thought he was irrelevant. the head of ncaa, and young urban league both came out publicly against him. to the older blacks, they are mad at him getting into an argument with johnson, because he passed the voting rights act. and to others he doesn't even have a consistency, he dies broke, and harry belafonte has to pay for his funeral. that is the story of his last year of his life. i turned back to you because i raised that because i wanted people to see the hell he paid for delivering that speech in
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new york city. now you take us to the last day, his sermon for sunday morning why america may go to hell. what do you make of the fact that after all that martin had endured in that year since he had given that speech before april 4 '67, they kill him before april 4, '68. they kill him. and before that, still he is going to go back to ebenezer and preach, still, he has the courage to say why america may go to hell. >> look at 1967, he publishes his last book. >> uh-huh. >> where do we go from here? which not incidentally is taken from the last chapter of his first book, "strive toward
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freedom." his books published. he speaks at riverside. he calls together a conference in chicago, on ministers across the country to expand the movement, focusing o economics and lifting up the three evils that you so well articulated. he participates in mobilizing the cleveland community for the election of carl stokes, he speaks to his staff and challenges them to remain faithful to nonviolence. and he lays the foundation for the poor people's campaign, which is yet to be finished. >> that is right. >> all of this takes place and i'm just naming a few things, in the last year.
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so with all of the debilitating option, a foundation is being prepared. for the next 100 years. and america and the world will be judged by these principles. that same year two weeks before his assassination he spoke to a congregation of rabbis, introduced by his friend, right here in new york. and when rabbi heschel introduced him he said something we should never forget. martin luther king, jr., is a voice, a vision and a wave.
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i call upon every vijew, and we can say all people to harken his voice, share his vision and follow his way. the very future of our nation is dependent upon the impact of dr. king. that is a powerful statement against all of the ugliness, against all of the opposition and all of the fear and the running away from him, here is a prophetic rabbi who sees beyond that, and the prophet himself, dr. king is acting in what he called in his message a vocation of agony sometimes.
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he preached what he called a message of service, suffering and sacrifice. >> i want to go back to his sermon, why america may go to hell. and even 50 years after this speech, this is clearly the most controversial speech beyond vietnam, the most controversial one he ever delivered. and still at least one of the most known, that is why we spoke of this, all this week, an entire week, five nights because it burdens me so that 50 years later people still don't know this particular text. we know "i have a dream." but we don't know this, parts of it exactly, maybe a paragraph, i say sometimes people act as if the speech only had one line in it. that is all we know, that one line in that speech, i digress, but why is it -- i'm not naive
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in asking this, but why are we so afraid, i used that word a moment ago, to wrestle with the complexity of who martin luther king jr. is, a man who could say i have a dream but could also call the vietnam speech, the greatest purveyor, why are we afraid to wrestle with who martin luther king jr. was? >> unfortunately's it takes a long time for people to grasp truth. if you go to the memoir of secretary mcnamara, he makes a confession in the opening part of his book and says we were wrong. >> mcnamara, defense secretary during the war in vietnam. >> correct, and he confesses we were wrong, terribly wrong but it took 28 years, almost 30
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years, a generation for him to catch up with what dr. king was saying. at riverside. let's look at another example from history. how long did it take for a portion of the world to appreciate the ministry of jesus? 50 years after the crucifixion and the resurrection? where were we in history in our response to truth? it took 300 years, and this may not be too encouraging, took 300 years for a roman emperor to give up and say i -- whether he did it for political reasons or spiritual reasons -- constantine
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said we're not going to kill any more christians. someone after him said, well, you have issued an edict of toleration. we're going to make christianity the official religion, which is dangerous, of the roman empire. and then another roman emperor says we're going to beat that. we're going to make it the only religion of the roman empire. and dr. merdecai johnson says at that point, the christian church took off the robes of christ and put on the garments of caesar. and we have been in a struggle between jesus or christianity.
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so it will take a while for people to even appreciate the courage, the teachings and the power of martin luther king jr. mrs. king said it would take at least 50 years and that is generous. it is unfortunate that it takes us so long in the stretch of history to grasp what should be simple truth, love one another. >> let me read one passage in the time i have left from this vietnam speech and let me get your final word. according to dr. king in new york city, this i believe to be the privilege and burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiance and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and go beyond our self-defined goals and position. we are called to speak for the
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weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers brothers. >> that is powerful. and the consistency here is amazing. in montgomery, in his book where do we go from here dr. king said -- and in the vietnam speech time to break silence. dr. king is saying to us, to the nation and the world we have two choice choices. n n n nonviolent co-existence, or
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violent annhilation. we are on the verge of committing a fourth genocide. and it could be the final unless there is redemption, truth, justice, love and reconciliation. >> and that my friends is why i wouldn't do this week without the reverend dr. otis moss, i am deeply honored that you came to share your wisdom with us. >> that is our show tonight, back in new york, commemorating
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martin luther king jr., as always, keep the faith. for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley. >> and hi, i'm tavis smiley, join us next time, we'll see you then.
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you, thank you.
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good evening from new york. i'm tavis smiley. 50 years ago, dr. martin luther king jr. delivered his speech, "beyond vietnam" at the riverside church minutes away from this studio. it was a call to conscience, detailing the countries ideals and mapping an alternative future, one based on justice and compassion. tonight, we continue the week long discussion commemorating dr. king's speech. speaking with a special guest about the anti-war, projustice theme and gauging where america falls 50 years later on racism, poverty and militarism. tonight's guest, jeremy scahill. we are glad you joined us. jeremy scahill, in just a moment.


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