Tuesday, January 15

Birthday Shout-Out: MLK

Every year
I force myself to ignore those that question your relevance.
I don't give my students a lecture about your legacy because I don't want to face the indifference on their faces.
I change the subject when my own peers, those of us born to parents who struggled along your side, tell me that the rhetoric about you, the rhetoric that came out of you, is stale. But I can't ignore it this year.

I am not sure which world I am living in that they are not.
I'm not sure where it is that I'm going or what it is that I'm doing, that makes me believe your words still hold, firmly, truths. Truths that I don't want to be eternal, but feel as though they might be.

I understand the apathy that has grown like a weed since your death, especially since so many others who worked with you are absent as well. It's too easy to look at us, Black people, and feel like we're too far gone. Some of us have been pitted against each other, some of us have pimped each other out. Some of us have been mis-educating our babies, forcefully or unknowingly. Some of us have mistaken our own mis-education as truth. Some of us are still starving and trying to vote and trying to own property and trying to get a job and trying to go to school. Few of us are millionares. A handful of us are billionaires. Some of us are fighting for a country that doesn't fight for us. Some of us use your name to further selfish causes. Some of us make song and dance and art to demoralize ourselves. But, some of us continue the tradition of making song and dance and art in our honor. Some of us are running for president and one of us has a viable chance of winning. We are all over the place performing all kinds of rights and wrongs.
We are all misguided and know we've still got a long way to go. But so many of us do take the time so think about how far we've come.

My mother told me stories of your visit to Chicago. She could hear your voice from beyond the church walls, out on the street. She remembers segregated schoolhouses, Klan crosses, canine teeth and hoses, Freedom Rides. I know she raised me with those memories in all of her words.

I thank you for having me in mind as you did your thing. I imagine my mother recalled the words she heard at the church the day you came, when I asked her if I could go to a better school or if it was okay for me to have white friends. I imagine what you might say, in the face of all of that we see and live and breathe now, as Black people. Maybe we would have a vastly different reality if you'd been alive, even just a little longer, if you'd been able to give the tools for dismantling the landscape to just a few more people.
You are forever relevant. You are at the root of the poetry, and art, and song that I love so much. Happy birthday, Dr. King.

1 comment:

havestrength said...

beautiful and well-written, as usual!