Forty years ago today, I was two months away from being born. I had no idea of the world I was close to being born into. I had no idea what changes were being wrought, how the hope of a people faltered and nearly died on a Memphis balcony. I saw newsreels and events of that time and the funeral and days that followed. When I was 18, I wrote a speech that gave my interpretation of living the dream.
For a long time I lived in blissful ignorance, thinking the job done. True, I can sit where I want on a bus, drink from the water fountain, ostensibly live and play were I wish. But when interracial couples are still looked at as an oddity, when people claim they “can’t relate” to black people in love, when educated blacks are criticized for not being black enough, I have to wonder.
I think we have come a long way. But I say, as many others do, that there is a long way to go. Yes, today we have a man running for president who embodies much of the hope that Dr. King espoused. But it’s still sad that in this day and age, more than eight years into a new millennium, such a candidate is a remarkable event.
You can read a very compelling article about the sanitation workers strike that led up to King’s assassination here. This part stood out for me:
<blockquote>Soon after [the first riot], a new slogan appeared on the signs the black men carried. Four words, but they were provocative. Four words, but in that time and place, they were incendiary. Four words, but they managed to encapsulate at long last something black men had never quite been able to get America to understand.
<strong>I AM A Man.</strong></blockquote>
My wish is the same wish that I write for my characters in my books: acceptance. We want the same things: life, love, success, happiness. You can have yours. Why can’t I have mine?