I remember being about six years old when my mother brought me a book about Martin Luther King. It was a short read with pictures on each page from various moments in Martin Luther King’s life. These pictures looked as if they were drawn from actual photographs taken of him from the various iconic moments that had been captured. I still have that book today. It’s a little beat up and torn from various moves and probably some mishandling (it wasn’t a thick hardbound book to begin with), but it’s still with me twenty-five or so years later.
This year, probably more so than in previous years, I find myself more reflective of Martin Luther King Day and what it means to have Dr. King recognized, particularly after seeing Selma earlier this month. My review of which you can find here. As I sit and write this entry today, I think of all the struggles he endured and what he sacrificed for a cause that was so much bigger than himself. He understood that what he was fighting for was something that would stretch far beyond his actions and even his own life. Dr. King was thinking of his children and the children of the future. Not just the black children, but all children.
I remember reading that book as a kid and feeling as if the Civil Rights Movement had taken place only just before I had picked up that book say, maybe three years before. Nevermind that at that time, it had been about twenty five years since the thick of the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t know if it had to do with the artwork that made it feel so fresh to me or what, but it did. I was reading about a man who was an icon and it felt like he was recently assassinated. I didn’t understand a lot about how many of the struggles between blacks and whites during Dr. King’s time were still occurring when I was a kid in the early 90s, but thinking on it now as an adult and having experienced my own challenges, everything still feels as if it had just happened because its still happening in some respects.
That book opened me up to a time I hadn’t known, because I hadn’t lived through it like my parents had. They were themselves kids at the time the struggles were taking place, but their understanding was at a place that was lost on me. However, I was beginning to learn about someone I didn’t know who thought of me, one of those future children I mentioned earlier. I was a kid who had friends of many races, went to an integrated school in California and could sit anywhere I wanted to on a bus. I was free to believe that I could do or be anything I wanted to be. Of course I couldn’t yet articulate that at six, but I did feel something inside that was trying to connect to Dr. King from that book.
There are many books and media that try to put us into the mind of Dr. King, but I’d say that Selma is as close as it gets. In honor of this day commemorating his life and work, you might check it out because it is very good. That said, here is to Martin Luther King Day. Thanks to him and others who took part in the movement, there has been a great deal of progress. Dr. King reminds us though, that there is still a long, long way to go before his dream is completely and totally realized.