19 January 2009

Days and Dreams

Today We celebrate a holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tomorrow, Barack Obama, a man whose skin color is much closer to Dr. King's than Mine, will become President of what is still the most powerful nation on Earth.

I first noticed Dr. King while watching the news with My dad, back in 1967. Every day, My dad would come home from his job, change out of his Air Force uniform, sit in his chair with the newspaper and a drink, flip the channel to CBS News with Walter Cronkite and almost every night, Dr. King would appear. By the time I knew about him, he'd been thrown in jail many times, had been attacked by policemen, judges, politicians and (other) idiots, had won a Nobel Peace Prize and had changed the part of the world I lived in by quietly--persistently--demanding that the rights of equality be extended to men and women of a darker skin color than Mine.

Dr. King was, to the Me of 1967, a TV "person," more real than Gilligan or Will Robinson, but just as ephemeral, existing in My mind for as long as he was on the screen, instantly forgotten when the next show started. Until one day in 1968 when Dr. King became forever real in My mind, the day he was shot.

I didn't understand then, not to any truly rational extent, why Dr. King was dead. I watched the news with My dad, and then more news, and for the next few days, it seemed as if every bit of news was about Dr. King's death. I watched because My dad watched; I felt sad because so many people I saw were sad.

Over the years, by bits and pieces, I learned more about Dr. King and the struggle he led. Growing up in the Deep South, I didn't have to "adjust" My mind to grasp what he and so many of his spiritual brothers and sisters faced: I saw enough to easily imagine what I didn't. I went to college where James Meredith needed the National Guard and Federal marshals to do what I did: enroll. And years later--but so many fewer than I ever expected--I watched an openly sobbing Rev. Jesse Jackson celebrate a victory he opened the door for, along a path that had a heart-wrenching detour on a Memphis balcony.

Tomorrow, Barack Obama becomes the 44th President, replacing a 43rd whose place in history is more outhouse than White House. I will watch Barack Obama take the Oath of Office, for I have never seen any President do that. I will watch as a man whose skin color is darker than Mine takes his first official steps as "leader of the free world." And I will cherish the idea--the joy--that a man who once had a dream of equality for his children, for Our children, has his day of honor before the day a nation honors its long-repressed truest self.

And I will tell My child--whose skin is darker than Mine--that dreams lived from the heart, do come true...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It has been a long journey for improvements on civil rights and equality, and with Obama being sworn in, the civil rights movement have come full circle since the "I have a dream speech". I hope Obama can concentrate on increasing jobs, advancing education, and the decreasing of our dependence on fossil fuels.