My mother was once a very active, popular, politically connected and civically involved person in her youth. I remember her telling me stories of her early involvement with the civil rights movement during the early 1960’s. I was just a baby, at the time of the first March on Washington, D.C., led by the late great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But, due to the social mores,[not so]… the reluctance of my father, she was unable to see to fruition, the work that she had put forth in contribution to this movement that created social and political change. She did not attend the March, in solidarity along with her peers,colleagues and her political idols. She was a secretary, at that time, host/usher/announcer and helper, doing what was needed for the movement led by Dr. King.
Savannah, Georgia, the city of my birth, was one of the stops on the ‘freedom train’ in the quest for equality and civil rights for black people in America. Inside of a prestigious church in the African-American community in Savannah, St. Paul’s CME[Christian Methodist Episcopal] Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. possessed a notebook in which he had penned his thoughts and his ideology of change that urged the ‘powers- that- be’ and those without, the powerful and powerless, both black and white, to recognize African-Americans as equal people with equal rights …AND the reasons for the nonviolent demonstration of “WHY WE CAN’T WAIT!”
Black people, post freedom, and the descendants of an entire race of an enslaved peoples, were considered 3/5 citizens[or second class citizens, as my mother recalls] in the U.S. during that era. There was racial segregation, ‘separate but equal’, Jim Crow, “wreck-less eyeballing”, curfews, the Klan, voting stipulations and other limits upon this freedom that were also legally and socially sanctioned obstacles to the up-ward mobility of black people.
One of the duties held by my mother was [using an old-fashioned ‘Royal’ brand typewriter] to type Dr. King’s informal drafts into a complete manuscript. The manuscript was to be published as a book, with the title: “Why We Can’t Wait”. She recalls meeting, interacting and speaking with Dr. King, Daddy King[his father], Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, and John Lewis, and other now notable figures, on numerous occasions during their stay in Savannah and Atlanta, too, I believe.[Mom, forgive me if I am not telling this accurately.]
While in that church one day, the group had received words of a ‘bomb threat’. According to my mother, Dr. King, apparently accustomed to such threats, calmly instructed her to simply lock the doors of the church, and then she was told to continue working on his manuscript. That she nervously did, and the rest is history!……I am proud to say that my very own mother was an active participant in the movement.
I am certain that her vivid accounts are really truthful. About 10 years ago, she/we spotted him while we were in the Atlanta Airport. My mother and I were walking along the ‘people mover’, and as we stepped off, she said to me, “I know him. That’s…..” I looked in that same direction, and it was the now Honorable Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. She stopped where she stood, called out his name and stopped to give him a hug, and to told him that she remembers the struggles and the times spent in Savannah. She then said to him, “Well done!” He graciously acknowledged both her and I, and continued on his way.
The point of this post is to connect the past conditions that led to that struggle for civil and voting rights- a movement and revolution- to what we are witnessing in cities all over America, and around the globe today. Shamefully, the cries from the past can still be heard today- more than 50 years later.
Called by different names like, “Black Lives Matter”, the cries remain the same as when we first heard the public cries of Dr. King. He spoke of police brutality, seeming disregard of the rights of Black people, and driving or walking while black in America. The people who are leading this new movement are rather young, and un-polished and un-trained in the teachings of MLK. His philosophy of change was grounded in non-violence as to civil disobedience, and there was training involved. This type of revolt requires an extreme amount of discipline to withstand the opposition’s refusal to change. Nonetheless, the commitment and determination, through shared experiences, bonds and unites them as one voice in a national movement for acknowledgement, social and institutional change.
Is it better and easier to deny the presence of these people? Do we want to merely justify the current practices or excuse the mistreatment, unfair and unequal practices? We have been given the reasons explain “Why we can’t wait!”
There have been too many losses of young lives. Families are hurting unnecessarily, and they are angry. Right now, their anger and frustrations are surprisingly well contained…..but should it manifest outwards, through the continued frustration, and repeated refusals to change policies, practices, perspectives….. Who knows what more will be lost in America! We can’t even afford to contemplate that!
Listen, Reflect, Discuss, Challenge, and Change. ‘Black lives matter’ as all lives matter! Psychology of change recognizes that it is a process that take place overnight or all at once. Legitimate change takes place by first acknowledging the presence of what’s not working. Whether it is weight, or the weight of prejudice and inequality or unfair practices.
Change begins in our brains, in heart, soul, or conscience. In order to begin to move towards change, we must be willing to hear, see, listen, or feel the bigger picture There must be a willingness to accept the sentiments that may be expressed by others; but, try to look through their eyes-their world views and their reality. Denial is the antithesis of change. Sometimes people decide that shared realities, shared pain, shared experiences, and shared determination, is overwhelmingly significant to their lives. Individually and collectively, the social conditions, practices and policies jeopardizes the ability to live and breathe freely as equal persons. The freedoms afforded by some are systematically denied to others is unconstitutional and contrary to the idea of the American dream.
Why can’t we wait for changes to take place in America? Because people- human beings- are suffering, dying, crying, hurting, and won’t allow any more waiting! An entire race of people, young people, young men, women, families, neighborhoods, cities and states….the entire nation collectively suffers from the wrongful actions of a few, yet……it’s bigger than that! We’re bigger and better than that, right?!!! If I am wrong, then please start a conversation.