Last night I was in my office laying down on the floor reading – “I Have A Dream” by MLK (of course). My 1 year old waddled in like Fred Sanford, and threw a juice cup at me. It hit my back enough to sting as it was partially full, and I felt a few drops saturate my t-shirt. ** Now before I say this next line, don’t go calling children protective services on me…lol. He has been getting out of control throwing objects (toys, his brothers homework, food, it don’t matter), so I popped his little thigh. See, it doesn’t sound that bad if I say I popped him ;-).
In any case, he screamed like it was just the worst thing ever (as my son’s feelings get extremely hurt when daddy discipline’s them). My head was aching, so I beckoned for my oldest to come retrieve the yelping lad, and remove him from my kingdom. A few minutes passed, and Fred waddled back in there with his blanket. Like all my boys, after they get in trouble, they usually come lay up under you giving you a hug, etc. I was still laying down, so he came and put his head under my jaw and positioned his ear close to my chest (assuming he heard the thump of my heartbeat). After a few minutes, we both passed out on the floor.
Now my son was added to this story to capture your attention, but I want to go back to the speech. I have heard this speech numerous times before, and even had most of it memorized as a child, however last night one line stood out to me last night when reading it again – One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
To my younger brothers/sisters, this was in 1963 (going on 45 years). I know not much is said about Martin Luther King these days other than seeing his son on CNN, or seeing the occasional commercial on McDonald’s during black history month, but do your research. Slavery was not that long ago. My generation didn’t face as much adversity as our grandparents, but we were raised in the era where we were educated. We knew about our history, and respected it. Almost everyone my age has seen Eyes On The Prize at least 15 times…lol. Seriously though, reverence your past. I admire the way Langston Hughes captured words on paper. How Jackie Robinson fought through oppression to break the color barrier in baseball. How Oliver Brown had the courage to say school segregation is foolish and I am tired of this (Brown vs. Board of Ed). Rosa Parks (now if you don’t know this one, that is just sad). Read about Medgar Evans, Frederick Douglass, Alice Parker, Marcus Garvey, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, W.E.B. DuBois, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Malcom Little, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Dred Scott. Read about the Tuskegee Airman, or the Harlem Renaissance. Pick up a book instead of watching BET all the time!
That statement Martin spoke was so powerful to me. All the sweat, blood and tears our people shed for us…the pain they endured to provide their great-grandkids with equality…we are now taking for granted. Whereas once that statement was mostly based on discrimination, now we have to be accountable for some of our actions, and the choices we made to put us in that position of poverty. Don’t get me wrong, I know situations happen. Trust me, I am not one to judge those. My comment is geared towards my people who have Yukons on DUBS sitting outside low-income housing. Cats who would rather spend $700 on some clothing, versus investing it in a college plan for their children. People with $50k worth of assets inside an apartment (like Coming to America).
My question to you. What are we really in search of? The metaphor of an island in the middle of an ocean means there are opportunities all around us we are not taking advantage of. I am not saying we haven’t made strides, what I am saying is we should be a lot further along. And when I make these comments, I don’t speak it with a judgmental tone. Trust me, I have made frivolous purchases in the past to make me feel better about a bad situation I was in. My goal is to reach out to my younger brothers who have so much life ahead of them. I speak these things based off mistakes I made, and opportunities I didn’t take advantage of. Getting older, you run out of the luxury of time, and start looking back over alternate steps you could have taken.
Could you imagine what Dr. King would say if he were still alive, and saw what we have (and haven’t) done?