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Poem Of The Week: Standing Tall By Jamie McKenzie

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I felt strongly to share something by or about Martin Luther King, Jr. today in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March On Washington For Jobs & Freedom and his famous, “I have a Dream” speech.  I came across a poem this morning and am thankful to have connected with the author,  Jamie McKenzie, who has so graciously allowed me to share it here.  Jamie is a poet and director of From Now On, an educational technology journal that supports engaged learning and literacy.

Here are a few words from Jamie about the poem:

“Of all the many poems I have written, Standing Tall has been read by the most people, as many groups have asked to share it with their members on MLK Day. This gives me great satisfaction, knowing I could help celebrate his contribution to racial and social justice.  Back in 1983 when I wrote this poem I was Assistant Superintendent in Princeton,
NJ, and many states were just starting to celebrate his birthday. I wrote this for the children in Princeton and it was published in the local newspaper.  Dr. King was a great hero for me, growing up and being a young man in the sixties. I remember the horror I felt when he was killed. I can think of no other American who has done more to advance the cause of justice.  When you look back at the terrible system he helped to end, the use of dogs, guns and fire hoses to keep segregation alive, his contribution to American life is just huge.”

Standing Tall

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some kings rule their kingdoms sitting down
Surrounded by luxury, soft cushions and fans
But this King stood strong
stood proud
stood tall

When the driver told Rosa
“Move to the back of the bus!”
When the waiter told students
“We don’t serve your kind!”
When the Mayor told voters
“Your vote don’t count!”
And when the sheriff told marchers
“Get off our streets!”
using fire hoses, police dogs and cattle prods
to move them along
This King stood strong
stood proud
stood tall
Speaking of peace
of love
and children
hand in hand
free at last
free at last

When some yelled for violence
For angry revenge
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
He stood his ground
Preaching peace

And when some spit out hate
He stood there smiling
Spreading love
Until it rolled like the sea across the land
Sweeping away Jim Crow
Breaking down the walls
Ringing the bell
For Freedom

Standing on the mountain top
They shot him
Hoping to see him fall
Hoping to put him away
To bring him low

But this King
even in death
even today
stands strong
stands proud
stands tall
And we remember

© Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

So wherever we may be today, let’s take some time to honor and remember Martin Luther King, Jr. and the legacy he has left us that inspires us toward freedom, peace and goodwill for all beings.

To read more of Jamie McKenzie’s poetry, visit

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