What MLK Day means to me

mlkIt is a blessing to see the fruit of God’s promises that were spoken through Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as we inaugurate our first African-American President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.

In the 60’s, I was one of the first black students in my neighborhood to be bussed to an all-white Elementary school. In addition to participating in several civil rights marches as a child with my mother, we were also one of the first proud owners of the Negro Heritage Library Encyclopedia series. So, needless to say, all of my book reports in school were about black history. I taught my fellow students and teachers all about famous black doctors, lawyers, orators, artists, authors and inventors that were not mentioned in our history books at school. I was a straight A student.

One Halloween when the other children were wearing store bought costumes, my mother swaddled me in brightly colored fabric and tied a turban on my head to match. She called me her little African Princess, and it made me proud. My posture and attitude completed the costume. You couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t royalty. When questioned by the students and teachers about the costume, I told them stories about the great Kings and Queens of Africa.

On the day that Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, my mother cried and fainted on the kitchen floor when she heard it on the news. The whole family mourned like we had lost a relative; in essence we had. Dr. King was a part of our family. My dad, who was a preacher himself, played Dr. King’s speeches over and over on a phonograph, and recited them verbatim. As a child, Dr. King’s words instilled dignity, pride, hope and faith in God into my young soul.

A few years ago, my step-children came home upset because they had been called the “n” word at the playground in our community. They didn’f know what it meant, but they knew it was an insult. I could see the pain in their eyes. So, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we watched the whole series of Alex Haley’s ROOTS. They loved the story, especially the Chicken George character. When it was over, I asked my daughters what they thought about what that little boy had called them now. The oldest replied, “He just doesn’t know God, Mommy. ” I was impressed. “That’s right baby. Some people just don’t know God so you have to show them who God is by being yourself because you are so full of God’s love that it will just spill off onto them,” I told her while giving her a big hug. “…and through you, maybe they will want to know God even more.”

It’s important to teach our children about their ancestral history. Unlike most cultures, much of our African history was lost during the slave trade (i.e., our language, surname, family members, etc.), and many of us may not even know who our great-great grandparents were, let alone our Africa roots. However, the history about African-American’s who have overcome hundreds of years of slavery, stereotypes, prejudice, and injustice are stories worth telling, and a legacy worth knowing. Maybe our children will appreciate who they are and the liberty and freedom that they have today if they know the boldness, struggles, and sacrifices that were made by our ancestors that made these things possible. During Black History month, I encourage you to visit the bookstore, library, museum, cultural events and recreation centers to learn more about Black History and Culture.

© 2009 Arletia McInnis, The Prophetic Scribe

The Prophetic Scribe

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