January 18, 2010

The Promissory Note - My Thoughts about Martin Luther King and his legacy



Today our country celebrates the memory of a truly great man, Martin Luther King.

This national day of remembrance was hard fought and long over due in being recognized. And now that it's here what does it really mean.

The school children love the idea. I know I certainly was all for anything that meant a day away from sentence structure, algebraic and chemical equations, and history lessons.

The black community will have it's fair share of programs honoring Dr. King today. Singing, plays, and speeches will fill many churches and community centers with a warm tingly feeling of unity and change.

Words about how far we've come as a people, as a nation, as a world will echo throughout the minds of the listeners for most of the day. We will swell with pride realizing how much things have changed and share an optimistic vision about a not to distant future when the color of your skin won't make a difference.

I never had an opportunity to actually see Dr. King. His voice and images have only come to me through recordings of civil rights marches, speeches, and other events that he participated in during his short life.

When I was a child his portrait greeted me every time I visited my grandmother's house.

I was and still am the promissory note he traveled to Washington, D.C and spoke of over 40 years ago.

.....In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."


But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.....

I would be dishonest if I said things were no better than they were 40 years ago.

I have no idea what it feels like to not be able to eat where I want, walk where I want, sit where I want, or say what I want - but my mother does.

Being just one generation away from oppression no human being should ever have to endure is what I'll think about today and every other day until racial injustice, intolerance and ignorance are like dust under my feet.

A day when your accomplishments, values, abilities, and moral convictions matter more than your color, gender, or sexual orientation.

For when that day comes I'll know that our promissory note has been satisfied - in full.

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