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Dr. Martin Luther King Died of Heart Disease: An Automortology

Dr. Martin Luther King Died of Heart Disease: An Automortology


Dear Barack,

Surely by now, you’ve come to the sobering truth that has shadowed your Presidency, and turned me into a ghost. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. That line … originally a fiction, first penned in 1975 by Gerald Seymour in his book Harry’s Game. A tale about an Irish Republican Army assassin and a British undercover agent…a familiar story about personhood, whole citizenship, borders … or should I say “Lack of boundaries” and nation building… and that arbitrary line…a moving target between love and hate.

That line, the one I found myself at the dead end of and you find yourself on both sides of, the one you learned to double dutch on one foot somewhere between Honolulu and Washington, D.C. Me, a man of the cloth…so God forgive me for what I am about to confess… but, Barack, you are what I believed in. Little Black boys holding hands with little white girls and … doing more than just holding hands … birthing nations in college dorm rooms on campuses barely integrated six years prior. Making love. Making “Leaders of the Free World.” Making you. Nothing but a fantastic beast to some, but to others…a mythical creature, to those whom Black Presidents have never been anything more than a figment of their imagination.

So there’s a new line now. And from one gifted orator to another, I’m sure it’s one you know all too well. One man’s dream, is another man’s nightmare. Eight. The same number of years older than me you were when you took office. Both with children, afraid for our lives, and theirs. Wives, strong enough to share us with the rest of the world, but insecure enough to know that the same secret surveillance that records our phone calls is also privy to every single plot to take our lives. They chose not to intercept mine, but I thank God that you survived. Survived all the crosses they burned on the White House lawn. The cyber assassinations of your character and the terrorization of Black churches on your watch.

I am unsure if I would have made as good a President as you. As good a President as they say I would’ve. I mean, I would have been fine with all the talk of death, the frequency of eulogies, the constant consideration of conflict, the relentless discussions about labor, justice and war. But at 39, I was already eating and drinking my way through a great depression. Upon realizing that whatever sickness our society was suffering from, was contagious … and possibly fatal. It’s been said that I was killed by an act of hate, but I prefer to think I simply died of a broken heart. A lost “hope,” that you found.

I took a bullet, so that in four days you could walk out…or in…any color house you want, without so much as a scratch. My slaying as inevitable as your inauguration was unexpected. In a way, we’ve both given our lives to this country…with nothing but a legacy of servitude to show for us. But you, are the one thing that I will never be…alive. And I … am the one thing America’s founding fathers assured us that you’d never become … a King.


Photo credit: Roberto Rosalas

Hakim Bellamy, a native of New Jersey, lives in Albuquerque. Bellamy is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, Swear (West End Press) and was Albuquerque’s inaugural Poet Laureate from 2012-2014. His poetry is published at the Albuquerque Convention Center and in Alternet, TruthOut, and Counterpunch. A popular and powerful performer and speaker, Bellamy has shared the stage with Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, and the Dalai Lama. He has been a featured guest on The Tavis Smiley Show and is the host of the arts program Colores on New Mexico PBS.

Bellamy’s honors include the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Studies Association, an Emerging Creative Bravos Award from Creative Albuquerque, a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Fellowship, honorable mention from the University of New Mexico for the Paul Bartlett Ré Peace Prize, and “Best Poet” in the Weekly Alibi’s annual “Best of Burque” poll every year since 2010. He holds an M.A. in Communications from the University of New Mexico and is the founding president of Beyond Poetry LLC.