This picture is of Dr. King and the first Prime Minister (and then President) of a Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. Taken on the eve of the former colony’s independence in March of 1957, Dr. King and Coretta Scott King along with a small delegation of African Americans attended the celebrations because they wanted to bare witness to monumental change. Political change. Social change. Cultural change. Only a few months after the end of the Montgomery bus boycotts, 6 years before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedoms and 8years before the Selma to Montgomery marches. The journey ahead was indeed long.
After this trip, Dr. King’s “ Birth of a New Nation” sermon discussed Ghana and his hopes for America’s re-civilization via Civil Rights initiatives : ( the title of the sermon brings direct call back contrasting the white supremacy propaganda film).
“The road to freedom is difficult, but finally, Ghana tells us that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice. That’s what it tells us, now. You can interpret Ghana any kind of way you want to, but Ghana tells me that the forces of the universe are on the side of justice.”
Both leaders pictured here obtained degrees in theology in America; both adeptly captured the hearts and minds of devoted audiences and galvanized them towards dreams and visions of black freedom and self determination; their respective paths towards this freedom seemingly intertwined (as pictured here) but also could not have been more divergent. No matter what is said and dissected about the politics of Nkrumah or the radicalization of Dr. King during the peaks of their power years after this picture was taken, it is this pursuit/striving for change that stirs up one’s hopefulness. Hindsight is 2020, but there is no need to believe that hope is blind. We’ve got to keep looking to the future, but not blindly and not without action. Keep putting in the hours towards change. Keep working across cultures/ across all binaries/ across language /across gender/ across sexual orientation/ across age /across class/across religion/ across internal struggles/across the surface of things. 2019 is brewing. And hopefully we’ll be able to look back on it, like Dr. King and say “the universe was on the side of : (insert whatever it is you’re hopeful for this year)”.