“I’m not gonna say, ‘Burn baby burn’!”
I’m gonna say “Build baby build!”
These are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, County Hall, Charleston SC July 30, 1967, during The Southern State Kickoff for the Poor People’s Campaign. which the Southern Christian Leadership Conference would lead to the capitol of the United States, Washington, DC in order to demand economic and human rights for Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, and low income whites. They sought to have an “Economic Bill of Rights” established.
I spent my junior and senior years of High School in Charleston SC. I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement as an idealistic white kid. I wrote letters. I made signs. I went to rallies. I marched. I drove my parents crazy.
On Friday, July 28, 1967 I got a call and was asked if I wanted to be in the audience to see Dr. King speak. Of course I did. So, along with a dozen other kids from my high school, we went to County Hall early and stood in line with lots and lots of others. It was hot and we soon realized that we probably would not get in. With more than an hour before Dr. King was to arrive, we decided to leave. We were stopped by one of the organizers who was looking for white faces, especially young faces, to sit in a group of high school and college students to be place in the front center section.
That’s how I got to see Dr. King, picture below at the event. It is how I got to hear him. I remember him saying “build, baby, build” and I remember him speaking about poverty as a common condition united the races. Years later I found these words in an archive at South Carolina State University.
“In the face of violence, in the faith of angry rioters, and equally angry police I decided to stick with love…You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro, of the Indian, of the Latino, of the White Poor without talking about billions of dollars.
You can’t talk about ending the slums, the barrios, the rotted coal towns, the reservations without first saying profit must be taken out of them and that investment in them must be made. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with powerful folk then. You are messing with captains of industry, with bankers, with realtors….
Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism…. There must be a better distribution of wealth…”.