The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered today as a civil rights leader, a visionary, a hero and an orator whose words moved millions.
And by his enemies, the Rev. Albert Paul Brinson said, King “has been called every name in the book.”
Speaking during a King commemoration in Billings on Monday night, Brinson had his own label for King.
Risked his life
“I call Martin Luther King a good Samaritan, because he risked his life to help people along life’s road,” Brinson said.
To honor King, Brinson said, follow his example and the words of Jesus, who told the parable of the good Samaritan and then said, “Go and do likewise.” And as Jesus told the questioner who asked who this neighbor was that we are supposed to help, Brinson said, “Our neighbor is anyone who’s hurting, anyone who’s discriminated against, anyone who’s unloved.”
Brinson, 73, was taken in by the King household in Atlanta when he was 8, virtually raised by the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.
Brinson spoke Monday during a “Mentored by Kings” program in the auditorium of the Lincoln Center, addressing an audience of about 90 people on a cold and snowy MLK Day.
‘We were brothers’
Brinson said people always want to talk to him about marching with King, and he tells them, “Yes, but that was only a minute part of our relationship. Before any marches were undertaken, we were brothers.”
He learned much from King Jr. and Sr., he said. King Jr. was the one who convinced him to go into the ministry himself, despite all his self-doubts. King told Brinson, “God uses us not because of, but in spite of.”
The elder King, he said, helped him on every step of his “journey into manhood.” Brinson said he and King Jr. were fortunate because “we grew up at a time when mentoring, fathering and parenting was everybody’s job.”
Jumping from the civil rights era to modern times, Brinson said the most emotional night of his life was election night 2008, when Barack Obama became the first African-American president.
It seemed a miracle for somebody who grew up before the civil rights movement, he said, but “we rejoiced too quickly.” He said no president has ever been as vilified as Obama, and he asked people not to “buy into the violence of words.”
“Love is still the greatest power in the universe,” Brinson said, and people need to harness it and follow the example of King.
“All he tried to do was be a good Samaritan,” he said. “All he tried to do was love his neighbor as himself. ... In the spirit of Martin Luther King, we must work hard at being good Samaritans.”
Brinson’s 50-minute talk made up about half of the program, which also featured prayers by a Jew, a Muslim and a Blackfeet Indian, and performances by the Community Choir and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Choir.
To close out the evening, both choirs led the audience in singing the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”