When I was a kid, I had no clue who Martin Luther King Jr really was. Yea, OK, I saw him alot on the news broadcasts talking about 'colored people'--but I didn't get it. I rarely saw black folks on TV. In fact, I want to say Bill Cosby could have been about it on "I Spy." I grew up in a pre-dominantly white community, yet I never experienced 'colored only' water fountains or bathrooms. So on TV, to see people the same color as me, walking with signs, or being chased by dogs, sprayed with water and police beating them--I didn't 'get' it. I'm sure I asked my parents why those things were happening.
Since I can't remember their answer, it must have something to sooth my grade school mentality. My priorities then were the reruns of Leave it to Beaver and the carton Huckleberry Hound. In fact, Huck and his friends were on my TV, the day the news broke in and said Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.
I do remember that. I yelled out to my parents who sat in the kitchen. They soon stood at my door to watch the news. My dad said "I'll be damned." Their faces dropped and clouded.
I admit I didn't really embrace my culture or my heritage until I much older. Don't get me wrong, my pre-dominantly white Iowa hometown will always be my home. It wasn't until I left did I realize how much I missed out growing up. I faced alot of inner-race racism because folks, black folks told me I didn't sound or act black enough. Then it began when a white person would meet me and tell me I didn't sound black on the phone. My question to both eventually became, "What does black sound like?"
Now as an adult, I do 'get' this. I can listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I hear his determination, strength and courage. I look at the young folks of today who have more things Dr. King could ever dream of.
And I wonder if they 'get' it and/or even hear a whisper?
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