Black men dressed all in black stand along the railing of the Lorraine Motel. A black drape is hung from the railing in front of room 306.
A new wreath is placed every year on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood in 1968 during his final moments. It remains under a shroud ahead of 6:01PM, when a moment of silence happens at the time of Dr. King’s assassination. Rev. Jesse Jackson (second from left) stands on the balcony during last year’s ceremony. Jackson was on the balcony with King on that day in 1968. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be the servant of all.” (Matthew 20:26)

In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon “The Drum Major Instinct” he defined this instinct as “a desire to be out front, a desire to lead, a desire to be first. “The desire to be heard, the desire to be seen, the desire to breathe freely — the desire to be great.

In the quest for greatness have people become blinded to the humanity of others? True greatness does not come by way of a pre-established and planned curriculum or set of behaviors.  True greatness is not the quest for recognition and headline. True greatness is the demonstration of genuine love, exercising of truth, consistent displaying of justice and a commitment to the well-being of all humanity.

When these four are seated at the table, greatness comes from the product they create. It is not a quest for recognition and headlines; it is a shared sense of responsibility for the accomplishments.

Holy Week 1968 was filled with grief, anger and death as the country responded to the murder of Dr. King. In the midst of the Holy Week Uprising, Dr. King’s words resonated throughout the country admonishing those who have misinterpreted greatness. Greatness is not something you aspire to gain — it is the product of engaging in a life of serving others. 

A Black woman stands on the steps of a courthouse addressing onlookers.
Rev. Regina Clarke speaks during a vigil honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg in front of Judge D’Army Bailey Courthouse in Memphis on Sept. 25, 2020. Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50

Is love displayed when bans are put on our bodies?

Is truth exercised when legislators attempt to expel those elected fairly because they speak truth to power? 

Is justice displayed when a mental health crisis results in a vicious beating resulting in the death of a community member in need of help?

Is there a genuine commitment to the well-being of ALL humanity when one’s skin color is used to oppress others? 

When these four things are withheld from the most vulnerable of our communities it is withheld from our entire community. We must all stand together. We must. 

Taking from a celebrity who said, “fame isn’t pretty” —greatness isn’t pretty, but greatness is available to ALL.” All who have a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”

A black woman bows her head in prayer, hands raised to her masked face.
Regina Clarke, with the Poor People’s Campaign, bows her head in prayer during the “A Call for Prayer, Power, and Protest” demonstration that was held at Army Park today, the day George Floyd was laid to rest. Army Park is the site of a historical marker commemorating the 1866 Memphis Massacre Photo by Brandon Dill for MLK50

As we recognize the sacrifice of Dr. King and his family during Holy Week 2023, we stand together for all! 

Serving others….

Feeding the hungry…

Clothing the naked…

Visiting the incarcerated….

Ensuring everyone can breathe freely….

The quest for greatness is not a contest for supremacy fueled by arrogance, instead it is a quest to be “first in love, moral excellence, and generosity.”

These actions know no boundaries!

Dare to be genuine….Dare to be great!

Rev. Regina D. Clarke ministers at the Cathedral of Praise Memphis and is the West TN Community Organizer for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee & North Mississippi.

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