Dream (Still) Deferred
As a companion to the previous post (Unfinished Business), I'm re-posting this piece from April 2008. Think about them together.
The observance of Dr. King's death always brings
mixed emotions in our home. We live two hours directly south of Memphis, in the heart of
the Mississippi Delta which is where my husband grew up. He was one of the
thousands of lesser known civil rights activists who answered Dr. King's call
in their local, Southern communities, and at great personal cost. My husband
cannot walk through the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights
Museum. Our attempt to visit it with our children was the first time they'd
ever seen him visibly shake with anger and cry.
It wasn't so much the events of the past that
agitated him as it was the disappointments of the present, or as he put it:
"I went through all of that for what?" It is hard not to be
cynical. On the one hand, we now have Black people in almost every political
position, but too many of them are acting corruptly and irresponsibly. Our
voting rights, bought in blood, often seemed to have purchased us dull
figurines rather than shining champions. Meanwhile around us, our communities disintegrate, torn apart by drugs, crime, and greed.
However, the battles have been too hard fought, the scars too deep, the
casualties too dear, and the outcomes too crucial for us who remain to just
leave things as they are.
My husband is particularly distressed by what he
sees in our schools. The passionate pursuit of education has been a trademark
of the African American community since we were brought here. It is painful
today to see so many of our children so disinterested in education, so
disrespectful of educators and other elders, and so disconnected from the
lessons of Dr. King.
Along with ministering to young people through our
church and non-profit organization, my husband has worked with our local school
system as a team chaplain, assistant coach, substitute teacher, computer lab
facilitator, and de facto counselor for many years. One reason he maintains a
presence in the schools is to provide the children with some role model, as in
many of our schools today there are few or no black males. A both deliberate
and unforeseen consequence of school desegregation across the South was the
dismissal of many Black teachers, and particularly Black principals. According
to my husband, integration for its own sake was never the goal. The fight was
for freedom, access, equality: the right to not have doors slammed in our
faces, the right to not have to get up or go around back. Integration was a
means to secure opportunities for us, and especially, for our children.
Whatever one may think of Barack Obama as a
candidate, it is refreshing to see the hopefulness and energy especially among
our young people that his candidacy has spawned. Surely, we can find ways to
regenerate among them the passion for education in the service of family and
community that fueled a historic movement.
The dream lives.
Orignially Published 04/05/08 at TeachMoore