As I sat at my computer, making the most of the extra time afforded by the weather. In the background played the televised version of King: the story of Martin Luther King. It was being aired in honor of Mrs King's recent passing. I hadn't watched it in years, and as such I couldn't tell if the commentary by Coretta, and other characters in the movie, was a recent addition or had always been there.
An impressionable person, I normally avoid most history movies, because the aftereffects of hate and the sense of hopelessness with which I'm left, usually lasts awhile or triggers a bi-polar episode. But for some reason, today, I decided to let it play as I busied myself working on promotional items for my book and the two newsletters I’d created. One had been dormant for a year and the other had never moved past creation. (I always have had a problem with timing. Once I get an idea; I always think I must rush into action, proper planning or not.)
But, today, maybe it was the fact that, busy with my writing and promotional agenda, I'd missed news of Coretta's passing and as such hadn’t even mentioned it on my blogs.
As I watched I wept and prayed. In the midst of my tears I noted what my teenage self and I daresay mid-twenties self had not recognized was the real heart of the battle. Not white against black, not Jew against Gentile but the age-old battle of spirits… good against evil. In addition, as I have now learned from history (and maybe a viewing or two of the movie Barbershop), that Rosa Parks sat down because she was tired, yes--but she was also a carefully chosen participant of the movement.
I watched the scene where fire hoses and dogs were released on children and women, because most of the men folk were already jailed or dead. I wondered how had they convinced parents to allow their children to march? Or how could the parents accede? What could have been said to an eight-year-old to bring realization of the act of a march that was akin to suicide? Raised in an abusive household, I am a product of my conditioning and as such avoid violence like the plague.
I could not see myself marching or allowing my one and only beautiful child to march. I again cried and prayed as I thanked God that I had not had, that particular decision to make or that physical battle to fight; which by no means meant that I had not had battles to fight. My particular battles were a mentally ill abusive and incestuous father, bipolar dis-order, low self-esteem and the daily struggle to be all God would have me to be in the crazy world in which we live.
However, I have learned by experience that you can never judge a person's actions or know their motivation for said action if you've not walked in their shoes. But were I to guess, I'd say maybe they got to the point where they'd had enough and figured that they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The indomitable strength of the spirit. You can enslave a body, but a mind is subject to the will of the one who houses it and what influences that body has been exposed.
With this viewing I was relieved of the spirit of hatred and acknowledged that everyone has a choice, no matter the situation, everyone has a choice and I thank God for the parents and children who courageously chose to march on my behalf.
As I watched the scene where MLK was told that four little girls were bombed in a church while there studying. Again I wondered, what were four little girls doing in a church building… alone? Where were their parents, or other adults? But before I could really sink my teeth into that thought, I was derailed by the vision of the horrible makeup job they'd done on Cecily Tyson, in order to make her dusky skin reflect the café au lait of Coretta Scott King or maybe she was victim to the fact that the makeup artist was probably Caucasian.
As I continued into the third hour of the movie, I was gratified that I'd committed to watch but couldn't resist typing up these thoughts and impressions in between commercials so that I wouldn't lose the gist of my realizations and convictions.
I realized that I personally have merited much from the blood, sweat and tears of the civil rights movement. I acknowledged that the struggle still exists for the brothers who have coined the phrase “DWB” driving while black or for secretaries in the office pool with degrees who work for or practically do the work of those without degrees and I could go on but I’m sure you get where I’m coming from.
Despite any of the above, I point to the culprit of struggles of all ethnicities--Satan, the destroyer. Even as I point that out I am convicted by my acknowledgment of the fact that maybe, just maybe I haven’t done enough to further the work begun by our forerunners. I ask myself the question: Have I taught my daughter, nieces and nephews, Sunday School kids about the rich heritage we’ve inherited? Have I been conscientious in the positions I have held at my places of work knowing that every bit of work I do, be it the job of a janitor or President and CEO of my own company, is unto God by and for whom everything was created?
Once I realized that truth, I was able to banish the hatred once and for all, not understanding the physics that enables it to do so, I trust this chair in which I sit to hold my weight. It is the same way that, not understanding His directions, or the things He allows I trust God to have my back. So what is in His will for me… will be mine, as long as I follow His directions.
Which brings me the major point of my conviction: The Voting Rights Bill.
Now I am not a political science major, heck I can barely tell you the difference between a democrat or a republican (but I hear, that even those who are well versed in the workings of politics can’t either). I have long stayed away from the knowledge or any mention of it. Maybe it was the thought that knowledge comes with a certain responsibility, that being making use of that knowledge by educating others and making right choices or maybe it just might be plumb confusing as heck for me.
Either way, I recall a random conversation with my brother-in-law about thirteen or fourteen years ago wherein he, a former political science major mentioned the fact that the voting rights bill, which enables African Americans to vote, would be coming up for extension soon, or we would revert to our original situation of non-voter status.
I remember changing the subject as quickly as possible because after all, that was like a decade away. Since then we’ve had Clinton, crowned as the "black people’s president" yet I note that nothing was done to rectify that situation during his reign. Now Bush has touted the re-signing of the bill. My question is: Why a re-signing, and not a new law eradicating the need for said Bill?
Now I want to get all up in your business now by asking, who voted in the last election? Before you get affronted, I will shamefacedly volunteer that I did not. It was a choice that I felt vindicated in making when Bush lost in the state of Pennsylvania and in New York, my former home state. I again felt vindicated when the “revote” resulted in Bush becoming our president and even went so far at to say to myself, the individual vote didn’t even count anyway, so what would have been the point?
But today as I watched the execution scene and Martin’s life was snuffed out, I equated it with the possible ending of the African American right to vote. A part of me says, "That’s crazy, that couldn't happen today!" But another part of me poses the question, "What are you doing to ensure that it can’t?" Furthermore, I ask, what are you going to do to ensure that it doesn’t?