What Black History Month Means to Me

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...

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Dear Martin Luther King Jr.,

My parents used to have this comic strip when I was growing up and it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking from the grave and asking this young child if the former slaves and former slave owners were sitting around the same table in a tale of brotherhood.

“No.” replied the young child.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continued with his questioning: “Have the hills of Mississippi been transformed from the heat of injustice into an oasis of freedom and justice?”

“No.”

“Are my four little children living in a world where children are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of the character?”

Confused the young child tilts her head and shrugs, “No.”

“So you mean to tell me all the little black boys and black girls have not joined hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers?”

“No.”

“Wake me up in another twenty years.” The tombstone of my parents’ comic strip designed to represent Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says and then back into “Zzzzz” he goes.

The interesting thing is that now it’s about twenty years later and as I look around I am chagrined to say that if I stood at the foot of Dr. King’s tombstone he would most likely be asking me to wake him up in another twenty years. Not necessarily because his dream hasn’t come true but mainly because it has not come true in the way he imagined.

I’ll never forget my sophomore year in college when I was out with a group of friends. On the campus of Colorado State University the African-American population was 0.8% but as my brother so often joked, it could have been an all-Black campus for the way we bound together as a population and this particular evening was no different. We were all out on MLK weekend and the night before the march we’d gotten together to enjoy our last night before we had to report back to classes. As the night wore on one of our friends was stopped by the Fort Collins Police and within minutes a routine traffic turned into our friend down on the ground at the mercy of oversized boots and flailing billy clubs.  We stood helplessly by and half in hysteria as our worst nightmare came true in front of our face: our friend was being beaten by the police.

The next day we marched to the steps of the provost office, at the time Al Yates was the African-American president of the University and we were just sure he would hear our cries as 400 African-American students stood on the steps of his office and chanted our disdain for the crime that had been committed against us.

Silence.

In chagrin, we marched for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and the entire time I thought about what Black History Month means to me.

Black History Month means that all Americans will understand and appreciate the Black Americans who have contributed to American history. I don’t mean to be finicky but so many of the things Americans use every day or even take advantage of having wouldn’t be here without the contributions of a Black Man or a Black Woman. Black History Month means to me standing on the grave of a man who created Civil Rights, a man who was so committed to the equality of all men he went to jail, he tolerated abuse, he enrolled his family in his purpose and he eventually gave his life and being able to tell that man yes.

Yes, injustice has been transformed into justice.

Yes, we all sit around the table in brotherhood.

Yes, all the little black boys and the little black girls are holding hands with the little white girls and the little white girls.

Yes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. your dream has finally come true and the rights for every man and every woman that you’ve created have been granted and we are all living in civic union.

I would love to be able to say yes.

The entire month of February I will be dedicating it to African-American men and women who have made an impact on America. Men and women who have committed themselves to to the result of being human in an American society far above the reasons not to give their gifts and talents to America. I may not be able to say yes in the way I want to but I know this much is true: there were men and women who said yes when I’m sure they wanted to say no and it’s time we honor their yes.

Black History Month Means to me being able to say yes.

Love Always,

Sunny

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