World Culture

Mo Ibrahim ... and Memories of a Fallen King

Mo Ibrahim

Mo Ibrahim Getty Images hide caption

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Lee, here ...

Michel Martin's out in Baltimore on a remote for Monday's show.

In case you didn't hear the interview that aired today with the African-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, you can still have a listen.

I must say that Ibrahim's likeness, including such a strongly voiced affinity for uncompromised leadership, is not one we come across too often in this business. Unfortunately, we often find ourselves reporting on those whose lives reflect quite the contrary of what Ibrahim is devoted to honoring.

Tomorrow, we'll air the second part of our conversation with the philanthropist. We'll talk more about his foundation, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Finally, as you know, Friday, April 4th, marks 40 years since the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, if you listened to our radio broadcast, you heard the sounds of a young Dan Rather reading a news bulletin for CBS News announcing King's death. You might have also heard the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy making the announcement to a shocked crowd in Indianapolis, and legendary CNN journalist Bernard Shaw recalling his emotional reaction to the news.

Now, we're asking you to tell us ... where were you when you first learned of the King assassination? Or, how do you remember first being taught (if you weren't alive in 1968 ... like me) about Dr. King and his legacy?

Here's a note we already received from one listener, Janie, recalling how she learned of the assassination in 1968 at the age of 7:

... After I got home from school, I walked by the television and saw the ticker tape moving across the screen. I stopped, so excited because I realized that I had learned enough in school to read it. I sounded out each word and then put it all together. Like frigid water in the face, the collective words took my breath away — I didn't feel that kind of shock again until the year 2001. ...

So tell us your story. We've already heard from folks who were overseas ... in Iran, and Jerusalem even.



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I was eight years old living in the Detroit Metropolitan area when my extended family members and I heard of Dr. King Jrs. assassination. I remember this incident due to my parents and siblings reacting with deep remorse. The 1960's were not the greatest decade for positive collective humanity.

Sent by Klay Magyar | 8:20 PM | 4-2-2008

On 4/4/68 I was 13 days from my 10th birthday. I'd walked home from school, and let myself in (I was a latch-key kid), fixed a snack and turned on the tv. A newsflash came on that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot, and later, we heard he was dead. My father came home from his mail carrier job, and soon my m other came from her war on poverty job.

We lived in South Central, not far from the epicenter of the 1965 Watts Riots (which I witnessed from the roof of my house). After shock and disbelief, the first reactions I recall (although my father was a Baptist minister) were statements that the city was going to burn.

In fact, that fear seemed to be on everyones minds. I recall the news going from excerpts from his "I have a Dream" speech to tape recordings of his "Mountaintop" speech given in Memphis at Rev. Lawson's church a few days before the shooting. My parents, and their friends, who were all members of SCLC, the NAACP and involved in local and grass roots politics and "the movement" all felt that he'd predicted his own death.

I remember being angry and confused that he was killed, and fearful that riots would start again. I mean, the burned ruins of all the businesses on Central Avenue from Compton to almost downtown (about 10 miles) still had not been cleared after four years.

Either that night or the next, much community organizing took place. Our phone was constantly ringing. We all (including my older, more militant sister then a sophomore at UCLA) attended a mass meeting of all organizations at 2d Baptist Church, then pastored by Rev. Thomas A. Kilgore, the local president of the SCLC and a mentor of Dr. King from Morehouse (he was the former Chair of its Board of Trustees). He chaired the meeting along with Rev. H.H. Brookins, then a major pastor at an AME church (and an early proponent of what you have been calling Black liberation theology).

My mom's friends from Welfare Rights Organization; Son's of Watts; SCLC; NAACP; WLCAC; Mayor Sam Yorty's office (not silent Sam, himself); Councilmen Tom Bradley; Mervyn Dymally (later Lt. Gov); and Leon Ralph (and other's I don't remember (I don't remember if Yvonne Braithwaite --not yet Congresswoman or a Burke) was there or not. Representatives of Gus Hawkins were there. In sum, just about every
Black politician or community organizer, including most of the "progressive" methodist and baptist ministers and their wives. (how many times have I heard Jeremiah Wright like sermons in my life--oh please).

I'm sure Black actors, radio personalities, and tv newscasters were also present.

But my most vivid memory of that night is the separate entrances through separate doors of Ron Karenga's "US", resplendent in short unisex Daishikis, green army fatigues and combat boots, gleeming shaved heads (the women with short 'fro's), masculine faces adorned with fu manchus, bursting through heavy doors, marching in formation around the pews and standing along the walls, stoic looks on their faces.

A few minutes later, the Panthers entered like a bugle and drum corp, resplendent in Black leather jackets, black berets, and stood along the other walls opposite wall from US.

To this day, I am sure no one knows how many members of COINTELPRO or the FBI were in either formation, or just sitting in the church pews or watching from outside or in the air. But they were there too.

The agenda, of course, was preventing LA from burning like DC did. The most paranoid feeling I recall hearing that night was the if LA exploded again, the Black community would be sequestered after martial law was declared.

I fell asleep about midnight.

I do know that the next big meeting was a prayer meeting at the LA Coliseum.

LA did not burn.

I watched all 9 hours of the funeral on tv. After I matriculated at Spelman and met the King children and Mrs. King, I was amazed at how at ease they seemed with the history and their status. Yoki (and later Dexter) seemed to be the most outgoing. Marty (my classmate) was kind of shy but really sweet. Berniece had not come to Spelman before I graduated.

Later that summer, while watching election returns, I watched the assasination of RFK on live tv.

I watched RFK's funeral on tv.

A week after fall semester of 6th grade began, my mom asked me if I wanted to participate in LA's first busing program to integrate school's. I said yes.

A week later, I up at 6:30 to catch a yellow bus at 7:00 a.m., to attend an all white elementary school in Westchester near LAX. I was one of 3 sixth grade minorities, the other 29 kids were younger.

Our welcoming committee at the new school held signs which said, "Nigger go home".

Forty years later, I recall these early events in my life, and like Marvin Gaye sings, "It makes me wanna holler, hold up both my hands." Then I get up the next morning and return to my position as a deputy public defender (I'm soon entering my 24th year in that position).

I'm fairly sure I'd never become a criminal defense attorney but for my early introduction to what we used to call "the movement". I thank God I can witness to these events, and that they inspired me to my life's path and work.

Sent by Betty Meshack | 1:27 AM | 4-3-2008

I was a Sophomore in college when I heard of King being shot in Memphis. I went to the TV and saw over and over again the still photos of Martin lying on the landing outside the hotel room and aides like Jesse Jackson and others pointing up to where they thought the shot came from. I thought, "such a loss for us all." Then, rioting and burning began in Detroit and Washington, DC where my brother and sister-in-law lived, and following their efforts of navitating around the city amidst such strife. I was, however, especially moved that evening listening to Bobby Kennedy meet with blacks and the pain in his face recalling losing his own brother and how he shared in their grief. It all instantly took me back to the President's assassination. And then, Bobby's murder two months later only heaped grief upon grief. It was a horrific year - of hopes dashed and dreams deferred. In many ways as a nation we have still to recover from those days compounded by Vietnam and then Watergate. Yet, as a society I think some meaningful progress has been made over the 40 years since.

Sent by Charlie Briggs | 11:59 AM | 4-3-2008

On Mo Ibrahim:

"Unfortunately, we often find ourselves reporting on those whose lives reflect quite the contrary of what Ibrahim is devoted to honoring."

And for the above, I say THANK YOU. . . but could you do so more often?

Sent by Moji | 12:23 PM | 4-3-2008

I was waiting in the parking lot behind the middle school in the small western KY town where my mom taught English. It was dusk, and getting dark quickly, as students came out of the build following a dress rehearsal for the school play night. The crowd was black and white: our schools were very recently integrated.

Several black girls were standing around in a tight cluster as they waited for their parents, talking, dancing, listening to the radio. Suddenly, a single voice screamed, and then cried out: Nooo! Then a buzz and more crying, louder and louder. The crying expanded, like circles around a rock thrown into the water.

A teacher came out: What's wrong? what's happening here?

I imagine that it didn't really happen this way, but in my memory, it seems the girls answered in a single voice: "They've killed Dr. King. Dr. King is dead."

Then there was chaos. Adults started shouting. Parents seemed to arrive all at once. My mother sent me to the car to wait for her, it felt like the place cleared in 5 minutes. As we drove home, my mother looked upset "There's going to be trouble", she said. I looked over: my mother had tears welling up in her eyes. It was one of the very few times I'd seen my mother come close to tears.

Sent by Rita Casey | 2:27 PM | 4-3-2008

During the interview with Mo Ibrahim we heard mention of the conflicts in Kenya, elections in Zimbabwe, and conflict in Darfur yet not one mention of the humanitarian and conservation crisis in DR Congo that's been going on for years. "60 Minutes" reported on Congo's culture of rape and on the near-extinction of Congo's mountain gorillas, but press reports and interviews skirt around DR Congo like it's a taboo subject. The war there has been ongoing for five years, despite peace agreements, millions of people have died and continue to die. Why no coverage of what is termed "Africa's world war"?

Sent by sheryl | 2:38 PM | 4-3-2008

Strangely enough, I was just walking out the screen door to go to a Norther Virginia Human Relations Committee meeting when the news came across the TV. My kids thought I was going to kick in the TV I was so upset. Deciding to go to the meeting, we sat around and people who had connections to King were on the phone getting all the possible news.

Sent by Sue McLean | 3:32 PM | 4-3-2008

Your conversation about the anti-Islamic film 'Fitna' was interesting for what it didn't address. Putting aside the fact that Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders is a bit of a nut job what I find interesting is how NPR's Ombudsman Lisa Shepard moon-walked around the issue of FEAR. I don't have any problem with NPR's position on the video. After all, anyone listening to TMM online can find the thing if they like.

While I try to respect the right to religious beliefs, I am concerned about certain strains of fundamentalist Islam and its fit into western secular culture. Leaving aside the human rights abuse that lead to gay men being arrested and hanged, leaving aside the honor killings that are a perversion of Islamic teaching, it is the sense of intolerance towards critical, humorous, or even defamatory portrayals of Islam that worry me.

People will disagree and tempers may rise but to threaten death as in the case of Salman Rushdie, or actual death in the case of Theo Van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam is a huge problem for the muslims community.

Perhaps being so completely identified with in one's faith and living in a secular society are incompatible, an incompatibility that leads inexorably toward a lack of tolerance for the larger principal of free speech. But like one's devotion to the prophet for some of us the ideal of freedom of expression is just as inviolate and should not be abridged.

Sent by raul | 3:43 PM | 4-3-2008

On April 4, 1968, I was a freshman at a college in New Jersey. There were only seven Blacks in my class. When we heard the news that King had been shot, we (minority students and liberal whites) were shocked and outraged that a man who stood for peace, love, and civility, had been so brutally murdered. (Never mind that we "radical" young Blacks had long ago abandoned King's peaceful philosophy for the more relevant Black Panther movement. Grief stricken by the news, we began planning a memorial service. That Sunday morning we noticed that a confederate flag had been hung in a dormitory window directly facing Route 202, the main highway between Trenton and Princeton. We knew that the flag would be seen (and indeed was meant to be seen)by Black passersby as an affront. Working with the administration, we were able to get the flag removed that afternoon, just before the city of Trenton exploded in a riot that Sunday night.

Sent by Mary Lou Jackson | 3:49 PM | 4-3-2008

I was 18, and in residential school. A "house parent" said when I told her that the Rev. was killed, smiled and said "Isn't it wonderful?" I was confused and sad. I had lost so many people in my life, and now this person who told us we could be more, and were important and to make a difference, he too was not here any more.

Sent by ANNE FLETCHER REAP | 5:08 PM | 4-3-2008

I was a sophomore at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) it was a shock but not a surprise, it must have been around spring break because quite a few class mates got arrested in their home towns in the days following. There was a March from campus to town. It was very tense. It was, in my mind, inevitable He was hated by so many people. When you think about what he was saying, as opposed to what others were espousing, it was just senseless. I don't think I realized then that he was only 39. He seemed so old, wise, and fearless. We had quite a few debates (in the dorm) before his death about which strategy would ultimately be successful. Who can argue against non-violence? That day my answer would have been....Everyone!

Sent by Ed Holmes | 12:34 PM | 4-5-2008


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