Mahalia Jackson, sitting on the platform directly behind MLK jr on August 28, 1963 did not hesitate to give Martin feedback he could use. You see, friend, Mahalia had just sung her song and taken her seat behind her leader. She had been MLK’s favorite opening act for quite awhile. They were freedom fighters. Teammates. It didn’t matter to her that MLK was clearly in a one up position.
So, as she listened to Martin and his prepared speech, she didn’t take long to realize he was giving his largest audience to date something new, something she hadn’t heard before – something they hadn’t heard before. She sensed unrest, as I’m certain many others did who were seated around her. Nobody dared interrupt the leader. Nobody, that is, but Mahalia. After listening for long enough and not hearing what she knew the audience had come to hear, she shouted out “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream.” As Margot Lee Shetterly captures in her book titled Hidden Figures, “King pushed his written speech aside, gripped the lectern with both hands, and gave his country seventeen minutes of the most memorable minutes in its history.”
Mahalia made it happen. Mahalia was mostly a hidden figure to the American public. She was somewhere buried in the big shadow of a big man and an even bigger movement. And, without her courage and feedback in the moment, we might never have heard the dream speech. It might never have happened. Your leader needs your feedback. Your peer does too. Your individual contributors do as well. Your team is only as good as the arguments it gets, right Bono? Right. Thanks, Mahalia, for modeling the way.
Who, friend, are you holding back on with regard to giving them the gift of truth in love? It’s not caring too much that’s holding you back. It’s not caring enough.
Care more. Good…