Jimmy McNeal


Feb 26, 2018

Black History Month Heroes: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As Black History Month comes to a close I want to take the next couple of blogs to both thank and recognize a few influential African Americans in my life. I grew up seeing several heroes that I could look up to. I was a fan of Thunder Cats, G.I. Joe, Spiderman, X-men, Knight Rider, Speed Racer and just about any other cartoon character that would save the day. Just like my son I'd imitate them..."Hey Kit..." "Let's go Joe...I'll save you...PSHHHHH PEW PEW PEW PEW!!!". Although those heroes still have me going to the movie theatre's today, I'm not talking about characters from cartoons or movies. I'm talking about real life heroes. Those who have walked through the sufferings of this life and are still admired today. Everyone wants to be revered in some shape or form and looked up to as a heroic figure. Think about it, who are some of your heroes from your youth? Seriously, think about it? Who did you look up to? Whether male or female, these heroes were people you saw that impacted and helped shape your own thoughts about humanity and the influence you could actually make in your lifetime. 

I've had several heroes of different ethnic backgrounds, but it was different when they look like me. I remember in elementary school learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and from the moment I heard about him I wanted to be just like him! He was well versed, distinguished, known, remembered, and just like me, he was named after his dad! I remember calling myself Dr. Jimmy Ray McNeal Jr. and thinking I could be the first black President of The United States of America. I had a dream! Just like many kids, the life changing dreams were modified here and there as I got older. Either way I still learned a great deal from this Hero of mine and I want to take a moment and share 2 things I learned from Dr. King! 

1. Service and Sacrifice Shape Good Leadership

I can't say that I've done this extremely well over the years, but as I watched and read about the things y ancestors had to go through, I'm still so thankful for men like him that did just that. He non-violently fought for equal rights and sacrificed so much for men and women of color. He stood up for what he believed in! Not just for himself, but for others. He along with thousands of men and women served their black brothers and sisters by sacrificing time, effort, security, a way of life, and much more. I honestly don't think he did it to gain a name for himself. Had that been the case I think he would've quit after a near death experience, multiple arrests, and thousands of threats and phone calls against himself and his family. In a time where he could've just done nothing and went on about his life, he sacrificed everything and courageously served those in need. Even in his death he went to help those considered as the forgotten, sanitation workers in Memphis. He said, 

"The question is not if I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me? The question is if I DO NOT help the Sanitation workers, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THEM...that's the question". 

He sacrificially served the least of these even in his death. Which leads to something else I learned from him in that very speech.

 2. God's will should be a Want in your Life

The last words of a dying man always seem to be life changing for the hearer. I can't say that he knew he was going to die there in Memphis, but his last speech is one of my most favorite speeches of all time. I found this speech a few years ago as I was reflecting on all the ways God had used this heroic, but sinful, man to do so much good in the world. It's a speech I listen to every MLK day. The last 10 minutes will take any human being to church, but if you listen, you catch words that I know have been written on my heart. He wasn't perfect by any means, but I believe sobering amounts of suffering brought him to this conclusion. 

"Well I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now, because I'VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP... Like anybody I'd like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I JUST WANNA DO GOD'S WILL..." 

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
"I've Been to The Mountain Top" 

I find myself in that same place today. I simply WANT TO DO GOD'S WILL, whatever the sacrifice, whatever the service, whatever the way he calls me to lead. I want to do His will and lead by example like Jesus did. God put men like this on this earth to encourage us to fight to be like Christ. Even the death of Pastor Billy Graham and other influential leaders should make us ask the question, what kind of legacy are you leaving behind?

This hero of mine makes me proud to be a black man, proud to be an African American in the United States of America, and humbled to be living in the time that God ordained for my own life. In April, it will be 50 years since Dr. King was assassinated, and sadly, the words of this speech can still resonate well with the times we're living in now. A lot has changed, but many of the roots are still sown deep into the American soil. I encourage you to take a listen, whether it be the entire 43 minutes, or the last 10 minutes, I guarantee you it will be well worth your time. 

Nothin' but love, 




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