I received a call yesterday from my niece; she asked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her questions were simple enough, like where is he buried, is his body standing up by water, was his death a conspiracy by the government, was Ray really framed to take the fall?
In that moment I was really proud of her for being curious about a man who lived 43yrs ago, a man who deserves to live forever in the memories of all Americans. This was her way of showing reverence for the past, the struggle, and those who (willingly) paid the ultimate price for today’s generations.
Now, it would have been easy to give her straightforward answers. But, I couldn’t. A lot ran through my mind; I wondered when would she (a teenager) be curious about Dr. King, or the Civil Rights Movement, again?
I don’t want her to one day open up a recreational reading book that will reveal all the “dirty” secrets behind this great man. I don’t want her world to change in an instant because she realizes that this idolized man is, in fact, human after all. It’s one of those moments where your heart speeds up and your first reaction is denial and condemnation of the messenger. Then you start to slowly accept that it could be and you begin to question other “facts” that you were taught to believe.
I learned the cold truth about Dr. King as a sophomore in college. It was a sad, sad day filled with many tears. My only thought was, “No, no, not Dr. King, too.” You hold out hope for such figures. He was a reverend, a fighter for the people, selfless, and a family man. But, at the end of the day, Dr. King was just A MAN, A HUMAN! Unfortunately, we have all fallen short.
So, I told her about his dissertation fiasco; told her about the dogged tactics of Hoover; told her about the secret recordings that eventually made their way to Coretta; gave her enough info on CointelPro. Yes, I told her about King’s love for the women, and his brother/homeboys covering for him.
My niece now knows the Naked Truth about King. And her biggest lesson learned is that he is STILL a great man, although he had shortcomings just like the rest of us; his memory requires respect because he did the unthinkable (something few, if any, would do today) in standing for a rejected group of people who had been oppressed for too long.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
- Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- Martin Luther King Jr. archives: The last days of Dr. King (thegrio.com)
- Review: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (shazrasul.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Thank you for (chicagourbanite.wordpress.com)