Dr. Martin Luther King R.I.P. [April 4, 2018-April 4, 1968]
I was 12 years old, brushing my teeth and listening to my treasured transistor radio when the programming was interrupted to say that Dr. Martin Luther King had died, dead from an assassin’s bullet. First I told my mom who was upstairs with me at the time. Her reaction was disbelief, “Carol, you must have heard wrong.” No Mom, I didn’t, they are saying it again. I ran downstairs to tell my father, who reacted with stunned silence. My Dad, a real foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement and my hero simply had no words for the nightmarish news that I was sharing with him. My father, often referred to as a ‘race man’ by family and close friends, so filled with the powerful rhetoric of freedom and pride that stirred in his soul and that he taught me daily, simply sat in stunned silence, a faraway look in his eyes. Sadly, now I all too often see that same look in the eyes of my son as his contemporaries are gunned down in what seems like a barrage of state sanctioned murders. I feel that hollow empty look in the pit of my stomach as I fear for the lives of my sons and all of us who inhabit brown bodies in what feels like increasingly hostile territory in my country, the United States of America.
As a 12 year old girl, I was curious and perplexed, saddened that Mrs. King no longer had a husband and that the King children no longer had a father. I also mourned that I lived in a country that seemed to wish that I didn’t really exist. It was my hope that if we kept fighting, kept trying and I personally studied hard and excelled that by the time I had my own children, enough like minded people would have changed the prevailing views on all sides of the equation and that my children would be born in a country that saw and appreciated their value, that they would have a chance to excel based on the merit of their character free from the bondage of institutional and personal racism and hatred. I grew up with the understanding that I could be murdered, bombed, hosed, spat on, raped, jailed, beaten to death beyond recognition, lynched yet at the same time I held the hope that people like my parents were fighting for me and that one day this would end. It seems that I was wrong in my assumption that the need for my destruction would end for my self or my children.
I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am, in what I am living in this post Obama era: “the staggering numbers of black men in jail; the recurrent killings of unarmed black youth by the police; the emboldened presence of white supremacism.” [Holland Cotter, New York Times, Sunday, April 1, 2018]
So on this day and reflecting on this week I comfort myself with the words of Dr. King who said, “one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we set but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”
In prayer, I hold myself in the perfect peace of love that surpasses all understanding and I see clearly that the call to action, my charge, is to stand boldly on the promises of the as yet unfinished work of my parents and Dr. King. To call together affinity groups of humans that value diversity, are willing to make change and where necessary reparation to those who humanity as been devalued historically and in the present day, to make this nation safe for my children and my children’s children. I and all who join with me cannot be defeated, the very soul of humanity is at stake.