Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Free At Last

mlk-club-flyer

A club flyer for a MLK weekend party

On this day, Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 88 years old. I wrote this piece a few years back, but decided to re-post it, as its relevance still stands. 

On this day (January 15th) in 1929, one of our country’s  (and the world’s) greatest leaders was born. In 1963 at the March on Washington, he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most (if not, THE most) powerful, most eloquent speeches known to man. King went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his peaceful efforts against US racism in 1964.

Among his most notable achievements — the things we (hopefully) learn about in schooling and in other outlets — are the turmoil, the setbacks and the degradation King and his contemporaries faced in a nation where their influence, their ideas, their livelihoods and their color were viewed with pure hate. All in the name of equality.

And here we are today — we as black folk can vote, we can use whatever restroom we want, drink from whichever water fountain we want, we can now attend the universities that were built by the blood, sweat and tears of our own enslaved ancestors — the same universities we were institutionally excluded from for much of the 20th century…you get the point. Things aren’t perfect, but we as a people have come a long way — all because of the sacrifices of King and others before us.

And how do we pay them back? Oh, by editing their pictures into club flyers, of course.

You may be thinking — “Lighten up, its not that bad,” or perhaps, “It’s just a joke, its not that serious.” But when we make these flyers, when we share them and use them to promote events — it becomes a little more damaging than a paper and a laugh. “FREE AT LAST,” reads the top of the flyer posted above. But what I’d like to ask everyone reading this is — Who is really free?

During slavery, blacks were degraded to the utmost degree — slaves that were talented were mocked and made to feel less than; slaves that were disadvantaged in some way or couldn’t perform as well as others were humiliated by slave owners as well, often given names of powerful Greek gods and goddesses, as a sarcastic gesture to poke fun at their powerlessness. Slave women were raped on a daily basis, sexually exploited and denied any sexual freedom at the hands of this very nation. Black bodies were deemed worthless and were put on display in slave auctions and other “events,” stripping slaves of their clothes…and their dignities.

I ask you again, WHO is really free?

In this flyer here (and in many, many others), King is “adorned” with a crown, gold chains and gold rings. Are we celebrating an African-American hero? Or are we making a mockery of this civil rights pioneer for our own “gains,” just as the slave owners did back in the day? It would be just like the actions of the slave owners, but in this instance, our own gains (promoting said party while promoting degradation of our men and women) are also our own losses (promoting said party while promoting degradation of our men and women). Damn, at least the slave owners even had enough sense about them to better themselves in the process.

Excuse my language and excuse my disgust. But this is an all time low for us, ya’ll.

I like to party. I like to joke. But I love my dignity 10 fold more than the former. Can we put a crown and some gold rings on that?

Free at last? More like last to be free.

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Weekly Wisdom: The Shoulders We Lean on Need Love, Too

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”

Martin Luther King, Jr. posed a great question – a question that we often look outward for the answer. We want to do for others in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, a disaster-stricken state or in an entirely different country that’s still developing.  But what about the people close to us? The friends right around you? The family in your own house even? What about the people that are always there when you need them?

I had to do a family history project a few weeks ago for a class. I asked my mom some questions for the assignment, and a lot of things came up.  She’s been through a lot (and has been through most of it on her own) and I felt overwhelmed – partly because of what all she’s had to overcome – but mainly because I felt that for a long time, she’s been there and then some for everybody else, but in the grand scheme of it all, she hasn’t had her own shoulder to lean on.

I have 2 sisters and between the 3 of us, you can imagine the ups and downs we’ve had, and the brunt of it all has been on our mother. It takes a special kind of woman to even fathom dealing with the stuff we’ve brought our mother’s way over the years.  And on top of that, my mom is a therapist and a substance abuse counselor, so she helps people fix their lives both on and off the clock.

When I ask my mom about dealing with the bumps in the road she’s encountered in life, she said “I dealt with it, you know, I got over all of that stuff on my own eventually.” But it shouldn’t have to be that way.  If the people we love can be there for us, we can surely be there for them.

I see it all like this. As we grow older, we learn that the amount of people that we can really trust and that truly care for us tends to get smaller and smaller. And once we’ve figured that out, we hold on to the people that are truly on our team really tight. And we lean on them. We lean on them so much, we may forget about their well-being. They may have stumbled and fallen themselves. But for many of them, virtually no one is there to catch them.

It may be your parents, a best friend, your long time mentor or your wise older cousin – whoever the people are you lean on, make a conscious effort to think about them. Be there for them. Let them know that they’re loved.  Just because they are our relatives, our friends and our familiars doesn’t mean they don’t need looking after. And just because they support us through our rough patches doesn’t mean they’re immune to rough patches of their own.

Next time you call up your best friend to complain about your dead end job, next time you ask your sibling to get you out of one of your numerous stints with the law and next time you whine about the partner your momma been tellin’ you was no good, think about that “urgent” question Martin Luther King Jr. asked of us all.

The shoulders we lean on are just as good as we treat them.

Peace, Love & Consciousness

metwists

Kiara