Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Birthday MLK

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1/15/29 - 4/4/68

As I look back on it, growing up in Washington, DC, in the 1960s was incredible. It didn't mean much, at the time, for our family to gather in the old station wagon to drive my brother, Johnny, downtown to a war demonstration. It was crazy getting tear-gassed on July 4th on the mall just before the fireworks began and having to retreat to the car and drive home. It meant nothing to me playing with black children on the playground at Haynes Point. In 1965, my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Brooks, was black. Although it meant nothing at the time, I feel incredibly fortunate today to have been brought up in this environment.

I was too young to remember the March on Washington that Martin Luther King, Jr. and others lead. I wish I could remember. I don't know what my parents thought about it, both being from the deep South. My mother was always sweet and kind towards everyone; but my father had his moments of being racial. Although he had friends and colleagues who were black and we had friends who were black, every once in a while, I would hear a racial slur. It always made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

I will, however, never forget the day Mr. King was shot and killed. I was 7 years old. The riots in DC broke out pretty quickly. I remember my mother being extremely nervous. We lived in Arlington, VA, just across the bridge from DC. I remember my mom asking my dad if he thought "they" would start trouble here. My father, the strong Texan he was, assured her we would be fine. Since his photography studio was right in the thick of DC (not in the business district), I remember my father telling my mother that he had a gun that he carried with him. For some reason, at that time, that made me feel better. Geesh. The first night of the riots, we received a phone call from my Uncle Vin. He was married to my dad's sister Ollie. They ran a sightseeing company right next door to my father's studio. Uncle Vin was looking for Aunt Ollie. She was no where to be found and the riots were in full swing. Parts of DC were burning and there was a panic in my mom's voice when she said we hadn't seen her. Later that night, we received a call saying Aunt Ollie had decided to go to a movie. She, too, was a strong Texan that never let anything stand in the way of what she put her mind to. Thank God she was fine.

What a loss I feel today when I think back on all Mr. King accomplished in his short years. I wish I could have been part of all he was fighting for. I wish we, as Americans, could rid ourselves of racial hatred in any form. I wish we, as human beings could do the same. I wonder what MLK would think of our world today if he were still with us. He was a remarkable human being.


Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

That must have been so terrifying!!


Paris Parfait said...

Wow, Rosemary what a story to remember from your childhood! And yes, MLK was one of the greats. Too bad there don't seem to be enough leaders out there with his kind of leadership, compassion and PASSION for justice and equality.

Susie said...

I loved reading about life in Washington DC during those times. This is a great tribute to one of America's best..

Granny said...

Susie sent me over her and I'm so glad she did.

I'm 68 and I remember the speech and the March very well. I was involved with the movement in a small way in San Francisco (mostly licking stamps, etc.)

And I lived in Memphis in April 1968, about a mile from the motel where he was killed. I remember my southern born mil, a nice lady but a product of her times, weeping. All of us did.

I wrote my own post today and quoted the entire text of his speech. Most people hear only "I have a dream".

PEA said...

He certainly was a man who will forever be remembered for his passion to see that fairness and equality be part of humanity. Being from Canada, we didn't really see what went on in the States during those times but we heard about it on our news and we learned it in school. As for what he'd think of the world today...I have a feeling he would say more work has to be done! Hugs xox

Janet said...

Thank you for this lovely post remembering a dynamic man. I only wish we had leaders like him in our world today.



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