Monday, January 19, 2009

"It's Gonna Be A Better World For You"


I was ten years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. He was gunned down in Memphis, TN just a few days after my tenth birthday. It was the early spring of 1968... just one year after the "long hot summer" of rioting across the nation. I don't think I was even vaguely aware of any of that at the time. My main concern was whether I was going to get the new G.I. Joe with kung-fu grip by Christmas.

I saw Dr. King on the news from time to time... usually getting arrested, leading a march, or giving a speech. It didn't occurr to me that this was being done for me or that it would effect my life in any way, shape, or form. I was after all, a child. I did notice that when Dr. King was on television being interviewed or giving a speech, the adults in my house would get very quiet, gather around the television set in the living room, and hang on to every word. My grandparents especially responded to Dr. King as if he was their pastor and they were in his church.

He was their pastor, we were his congregation... all of us. My grandfather and uncle explained to me that Dr. King was a good man and even though he was going to jail, it wasn't because he was a bad man. There was a difference between him going to jail and say, Mr. Robinson across the street... who routinely got drunk, came outside naked, and had to be hauled off to jail for the night. No, Dr. King was fighting for something called "civil rights", something that I would understand when I was much older.

When he died, I knew just by the reaction of my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and older people on the street that something monumental had happened. I could see the universal dispair in peoples faces and the anger in a few younger folks who I recall threw a few bottles and set a few small fires that weekend. My mother explained to me that because of what Dr. King did, it was "gonna be a better world for you." She said that my brother and I would be going to college and that when we graduated, the world we would be entering would be a much better one than the one she had come of age in.

My mother also told me that when she was a little girl, my grandfather was driving her and her sisters somewhere and they saw a body hanging from a tree. They saw it before my grandfather could shield their eyes from it. It was something she never forgot and an everyday occurrence in the 1930's and 1940's. It was a warning not to "get out of line". Dr. King, Malcolm X, and the people who followed them had indeed "gotten out of line" and had changed all of that. She was certain in 1968 that wouldn't be my reality.

In a sense, she was right. I attended integrated schools most of my life, never lived in an age of segregation, and entered the work force with much more opportunity than my grandparents and parents could ever imagine. Although, I didn't enter a perfect world... the hatred and small mindedness that killed Dr. King still exists but, it's fading fast. I want to thank Dr. Martin Luther King and all of the people who lost their lives during the civil rights movemant for leaving me a better world than the one I was born into. I hope my generation can leave this world a little better for the children who are coming up now.

In another sense, my mother was wrong. This world is a much more dangerous and hateful place than it was then. The economy is worse... it's much harder for a young person to get started in the work force and the future looks about as bleak now for Americans of every hue as it ever did. Despite this bleakness, I'm left with my mother's optimism and her hope for me. I have this hope for the young people coming up now. It's gonna be a better world for you too, if you follow Dr. King's example of faith and activism and make it what you would have it be. Don't just except it as it is and lose hope. Take the cards you are dealt and play the best hand you've got!

23 comments:

Toni said...

This was very touching and moving Keith.

James Perkins said...

You always know how to take a major event and break it down to the personal, so that the average person can relate..This is your genius.

Angie B. said...

Very Moving Post Keith.

SunFlower said...

Didn't expect a post from you..but I checked anyway...I'm glad that I did.Good Post.

Halo said...

This was very touching Keith.

Tate2 said...

Hey Fam, Eagles caught a tough break huh? Oh well, there is always next year.

Lisa said...

What an amazing and original tribute!

Vanessa said...

Nice...This and the postyou did Thursday left me with a lot of hope for an uncertain future.

Simon Bastion said...

Bravo Mr. Keith, Bravo...You haven't hit that brick wall yet I see.

Jazzy said...

Can't believe I'm up late reading blogs, but I'm off tomorrow..This was good.

Grover Tha Playboy said...

Thought you'd be too bummed out about
your Eagles to post, but I see you're a trooper..Great post bruh!

Swaggie said...

Good Post Keith..I thought you'd be at the innauguration and that we wouldn't be getting a post for awhile..Guess you stayed home too huh?

Captain Jack said...

I want to know when is your auto-biography coming out??lololol..You sound like you were an interesting child who was surrounded by an incredible extended family.

Anonymous said...

What? No mention of how great Barack Obama has made the world? I for one am shocked.

Oyin said...

This was something special to mention ...thanks Keith. How are you?

Mizrepresent said...

Excellent post Keith! I too remember his being assasinated and the grief that followed in my household...at the time i couldn't understand it at all...my mother had gotten a memorial booklet just after his funeral with his picture on it and i remember reading it from cover to cover, trying to understand the man and his mission and trying to make sense of his death...it would take me many decades to fully understand his importance, like the other freedom fighters before and after him.

Arlene said...

Keith, Another on point essay!! I would add that the significance of what your mother saw was the location. That body hanged from a tree on Cobbs Creek Parkway. Pop-pop was working for General Electric at the time and the family was on the way to take him to work out in Eddystone. My mother also talked about that terrible sight. I can remember segregation from our summers in Florida. I remember having to sit in the balcony when we went to the movies. Your mother always said that we sat in the balcony because we had a better view of the screen. Many years later I learned the truth. Ask Val and Vev about that famous "glass-bottomed" boat ride. It took place in an area that was opened to us only on certain days and times. We are now witnessing history.
Pancha and Margaret are in DC for the inagurationn and will be present at the swearing in ceremony (the lucky ducks.) We've been on God's side, which is the side of righteousness and "He has bought us out of the mirry clay and put our feet on a rock to stay." Oh Hallelujah, Amen.

Strongblkwmn said...

It's hard to believe that a man whose life wasn't very long could make such a huge impact.

The young people I know, my daughter and son and their friends as well as children of friends and family, really do make me feel more optimistic about the future than I ever have. They're so active and involved that I feel as though things will get better.

I don't forsee the day when racism and bigotry will no longer exist but I do think some people's mindsets can be changed.

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

How true, Keith. I've been reflecting on the stories my parent's shared as well as their hopes for me. I want to make sure I don't lose sight of the struggle it took to get us here. Excellent post.

Rich Fitzgerald said...

Great post. I'm not sure what you see in your future as it relates to writing, but you have the Griot touch my brother.

Beautifully.Conjured.Up said...

Your posts are always very thoughtful and positive. I really enjoy reading them (and the posts on the other blog, but that's for a different reason *smile*).

Kofi Bofah said...

The think about King is that he was able to battle Hate with Love. It was almost as if the Hate made his heart grow warmer.

Such incredible strength...

Darius T. Williams said...

Such truth to this - loved it!




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