Today at Fish & Greens we're celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If you're fortunate to have the day off from work (I do, but I always have Mondays off), take some time to reflect on WHY.
When I was a kid, Dr. King was my ultimate hero. I felt so personally connected to who he was and what he did. I knew the stories of the '50s and '60s well, and had heard many stories from my parents and extended family. (My mother, who grew up in Virginia, recalls drinking out of "colored" water fountains as a little girl, which, to this day, still blows my mind.) Growing up in the lily-white suburbs, I knew that his work was the reason why I had the opportunities I did. And I always felt that, as the only black kid in the school, I needed to promote and defend his work.
One year, in elementary school (think it was 3rd or 4th grade), I realized (on January 14) that there probably wasn't going to be anything done by my teacher to celebrate MLK's b-day the next day. So I volunteered to write a paper and present it to the class. The teacher was very excited by my request and agreed. Of course, then I had to go home and actually WRITE the paper, and I ended up exasperating my parents by procrastinating and staying up all night. At one point I remember being really pissed off that I had agreed to do this - here I was, busting my tail for no extra credit, and why was I doing this?
I felt really good the next day, however, when I read my little paper to the class. It couldn't have been more than a page, but I think that people actually listened to me, and hopefully they got something out of it. And, more importantly, I got something out of it. It was one of the few times in elementary school that I was truly proud of who and what I was.
So, to quote the title of a book popular during my youth: "Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!"