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“The Drum Major Instinct”
NORTH CAROLINA (BASN) — If you have ever seen a Black college half-time show, you know that the most important person on the football field is the drum major.
The drum major is known for his prancing and high stepping routines.
An effective drum major must be a skilled field conductor, who has exceptional marching techniques that is highly responsible and reliable. They also must work well with both the band director and the members of the band, while teaching and assisting other members.
Their vocal commands must be loud, easily understood and inspirational. Therefore, as we remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. today, let’s not worship him, or idolize him.
But simply remember him…as a drum major for justice, a drum major for righteousness, and a drum major for peace. Here is an excerpt from Dr. King’s “The Drum Major Instinct” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Chruch in Atlanta, Georgia on February 4, 1968, which proves my point.
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator — that something we call death.
We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, “What is it that I would want said?”
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say.
Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.
I ‘d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness.
And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.
We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. … And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct.
It is a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence.
I want you to be the first in generosity.
Yes. His truth keeps marching on.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on BASN on October 11, 2011