These thoughts are mine and mine only. Most may not be as well thought out as they should have been, but the following submission was more therapeutic to me than it was about reader satisfaction. Nevertheless… ENJOY…
The birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was this past Tuesday. As a 25 year old African American male this is a day I take much pride in, and can only begin to understand the significance of. The day it is celebrated constantly reminds me of the number of minority freedom fighters in this country that never had their stories told in our school history books. I guess that complaint can be used for a lot of things in this country so I will spare you with my long list of individuals like Marcus Garvey, Delores Huerta, Huey P. Newton, Yuri Kochiyama just to name a few.
The reason I actually decided to write about MLK this morning was not necessarily because I thought it would be a bold and noble thing to do, however, yesterday I was afforded the opportunity to attend an MLK celebration. I will admit initially I did not want to attend because I’ve seen how disastrous these things can turn out. I guess I wanted to avoid disappointment. I understand that there are a lot of people of all races and ethnicities who work really hard to put on these celebrations and as a young black male I should be thankful that an African American whom looks like me that is such a prominent human being is being celebrated. No doubt MLK was a phenomenal individual who deserves to be celebrated and honored by all Americans.
I decided to attend anyway. Like I mentioned before I initially did not want to attend, but the caliber of the institution that was putting on this celebration gave me high hopes that I would learn something new about the most celebrated African American in history. Even if I didn’t learn anything new maybe I would hear about how MLK inspired someone else to change the world.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get that…
Instead, I got the usual singing of Lift Every Voice (Black National Anthem), two men tap dancing for entertainment, a butchered speech about how we need to be mentors to today’s children so that they can be afforded the opportunities of privilege in this country (true indeed…), and a slam poetry reading. I just left the celebration very disappointed and unfulfilled.
The Return of The King Boondocks episode kept playing in my head over and over again. What if Martin Luther King Jr. came back today and saw the state of black America? What would he say? Maybe that’s not a fair question. There are many sides to that question from both the realistic look at celebrated black culture and the taking a closer look at the continued oppression from the oppressors whom hold the power to make institutional change. A more realistic question, what if he was able to attend this celebration? Would he be proud that the only gifts being highlighted amongst his people were STILL dancing, a form of music and other forms of entertainment?
I never want to bring a problem without giving a solution. My solution would be how about next time since the institution is filled with many diverse doctors and scholars whom hold years of academic, work, and life experience and stories; We give these individuals a voice and opportunity to speak about their lives and their experiences. Share with us their inspirations. Give a voice to the voiceless. Create some new leaders whom we could be proud to speak about and celebrate. This event to me felt like politics as usual something that was thrown together because it was simply tradition to do so.
It is not enough just to be satisfied with mere acknowledgement anymore. We must set higher expectations for the way minorities are represented and celebrated. This includes representation by white people whom are seen as the dominate American race, by other minorities, and by each other.
All of us hold ignorance in this world, and it is my goal to continue to educate myself and seek answers. I hope that we all will continue to do the same. Today this is my truth. I only hope that my words will spark thought and will inspire others.
Through it all I am thankful that such a great man can be celebrated by so many people every year for giving his life for humanity, equality, his beliefs, and sacrifice. I hope to one day have a pinch of the courage that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had, and one can only dream to leave such a legacy. I am determined to try, and I vow to look at the world through the truthful lenses that is reality with my ambition, my struggle, and my life.