Through Dorris’ Eyes
Sometimes I think that I worry too much about the future of our nation, and the position and state of where African Americans will find themselves. It seems to me that African Americans and other vulnerable groups are always fighting an uphill battle. There is an array of struggles lined up in cue barley awaiting the completion of one crisis before having to engage in another. This lifestyle can drive one to insanity. Mental Health week is around the corner and the African American is besieged with one trial after another that leaves the brain not enough time to regenerate.
As a child, I had hoped and thought that the vigor of the Civil Rights Movement would make life a little lighter so that at least there would be gaps in crisis driven action. I witnessed the adults working so hard. They would leave farms and jobs to attend change meetings that ran late into the night and got up the next day to start again. They were focused with a mission. They were intense. Gaining access to education, fair employment, accommodations, travel, voting and fair housing rights, I am certain has made a distinctive difference for all Americans. Still, the blacks are lagging. It seems so hard to keep from going under and now whites are experiencing the delayed American dream in this tight economy. The transformation of our nation brings about change in our melting pot called the United States of America.
These thoughts come to me as I reflect upon my time as a teenager assisting Fannie Lou Hamer and Robert G. Clark with Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party meetings. This week is especially reflective as the planned unveiling of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Monument on the Mall in Washington, DC. I recall my meeting of Dr. King when he came to my hometown for a meeting and fund raiser. My mom allowed me to serve as an usher and Mrs. Hamer moved me from the rear of the dining hall at St. Jr. College to the head table saying that I should serve, Dr. King, Medgar Evers and other dignitaries and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. I was honored and determined to do a good job so that the movement that was being undertaken would indeed benefit me for my mother and grandfather were front line civil rights workers who had enough courage to stand for a different kind of future. To serve Dr. King was indeed an honor. He was gracious, encouraging and kind as was Evers.
Now as I reflect upon the progress that has been made, even through the election of President Barack Obama, I wonder whether we have fallen short of the vision of the warriors. The passion with which they volunteered giving their time, money, ideas, resources, and bodies, taking unprecedented risks in hopes a better future for the children are memorable. These warriors spent countless hours away from families on treacherous roads traveling through Klu Klux Klan country to make life better for future generations. The question is, are we merely benefiting from their struggle that provided access and opportunity or are we being greedy benefactors without planting seeds of progress for the next generation?
I think that the vision of the warrior was one of an unshackled people with courage, high hopes, drive, aspiration and the willingness to love and share as they brought the village along unselfishly so that all will enjoy the fruits of the collective labor. Maybe, this is not their vision, but it is what I culled as a child working amongst them as a sponge serving coffee, water, and mimeographing papers so that the word could get out about the next direct action.
My hopes are still high and my longing for a better life for the downtrodden and the upward mobile. Each group needs the other. There is still a necessity for collaboration, cooperation, and the ability to listen and learn from others and therefore, organize a plan of action for the next unresolved problems, of which there are many. Positive unselfish role models are still essential so that the one generation can be influenced by the next.
What warrior voices do you hear? Whether one chooses to replicate the work of previous generations or advance the work left unfinished, there are still many opportunities to make this world a better place with new vigorous creations and strategies for justice, opportunity, and improvements. That is what the Civil Rights warriors were trying to do. Shake this place up. Put some vitality back into neighborhoods. Get life and hope moving again. Do not be so dull and contrived. It is boring and eventually ineffective. Participate in life. It is not a game. It is a journey that leads from one loop to another with many on and off roads that can take you to various destinations. The people who are honored and remembered at the unveiling of Dr. King’s monument, I am sure had no early inclination that they would be moving around the Jim Crow south trying to bring justice and equal opportunity to others.
Hence, as millions view the monument, as I am certain there will be, let us remember those who organized and participated in the Movement so that there could be a statue. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial becomes the 395th national park. His statue is a sum of the work of many and I hope that a lot of you sent a dollar or two to help pay for it.
May God bless, and I will see you next week.