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April 4: Public Readings of MLK Vietnam Speech Around the Country

Published on: February 20, 2017

Filed Under: Events, Featured

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April 4, 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.  In confronting the deeply rooted racism,  militarism and materialism of the United States,  Dr. King described the United States as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

Delivered to an overflow crowd at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4,  1967, Dr. King’s challenge to engage in a radical revolution of values encountered ferocious opposition.  Fifty years later,  however,  it is clear that his analysis and his call to action is as relevant now as it was then.

  • Today the United States has a multi-trillion dollar permanent war economy, the costliest deployment of weapons and military personnel in the world and at home a vast system of mass incarceration,  a hideous homicide rate and endemic violence against women and LGBTQ people.
  • Today as a result of our society’s virulent racism, people of color are subjected to unrelenting state violence through police brutality, police murder and massive incarceration rates,  while suffering gross disparities in income, education, employment, military service, housing and health care.
  • Today materialism dominates our culture and our economy to the peril of all life on earth. It pollutes our values, our souls and the natural world.
  • Today we know that the struggle against sexism and patriarchy is intrinsically linked to overcoming racism, militarism,  materialism and environmental catastrophe.

The National Council of Elders is encouraging everyone to hold readings and bring attention to Dr. King’s message from “Beyond Vietnam”.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the reading of Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, we are asking local VFP chapters to organize speech-reading events.

Below you will find a step-by-step guideline for planning your event, adopted from resources provided by United For Peace & Justice. If you have any questions, please e-mail Casey Stinemetz.

  • We have divided the speech into 16 sections, with an introduction.  We suggest that you print out the introduction and speech in an enlarged font and assemble several 3-ring binders including the full set of materials.
  • Invite local elected officials, community leaders, activist groups and high school students to participate in a public reading in front of your Federal Building, City Hall or other suitable location.  You may want to hold a press conference involving representatives of these constituencies in advance. You may need to secure a permit for a public assembly or sound system. Before the event, choose someone to facilitate the opening and closing of the event.
  • Set up a “podium” and some visuals.  The podium can be as simple as a music stand draped with a cloth, where you can support one of the open binders, and posters or banners depicting Dr. King and whatever messages you want to project.
  • Begin the reading by sounding a gong or bell, signifying a moment of silence, and have someone read the introduction.  You may wish to prepare a list of readers in advance, which you could post on butcher paper or a whiteboard. You should have an extra binder or two available so that readers can practice reading their sections in advance.
  • Provide your readers with a set of simple instructions so they will know that they should not make additional remarks. You may also wish to provide readers with badges identifying them as readers
  • Close the event with remarks about the 50th anniversary and relate the speech to current time. You may choose to open up the mic for comments and discussion.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivers “Beyond Vietnam” Speech at Riverside Church on April 4th, 1967

Quick Links

Martin Luther King’s Radical Legacy, From the Poor People’s Campaign to Black Lives Matter  by Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou

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