he was killed April 4, 1968. he was 39 and if he were alive today, he would have just celebrated his 81st birthday.
most of what i know about martin luther king, jr. i read or saw on television after his death. i was seven when he was killed. i hadn't heard much about him prior to that fateful day in april. he was busy leading his crusades and while news of some of that filtered through via adult conversations, i was much too young to take much notice. that day in april changed what i heard, saw and my relationship with the information.
the whole of 1968 was hot. my parents were in the midst of making up to break up moves only to break up for good in 1968/9. after dr. king's death parts of chicago went up in flames and more, the outside volatility surpassing the inside for a time.
my most vivid memory of that time, outside the images of the burned out buildings, debris strewn about the streets, and the televised images of police beating back the rioters is that of my older brother standing side-by-side with me, facing a full-length mirror we had in our foyer.
i remember him taunting me, "i can go outside because i'm white and you're black!" i remember my mother slapping the taste out of his mouth and telling him, "fool, you just as black as she is!"
it feels weird to say happy mlk day, when here in 2010 there are still debates as to whether or not the election of our current president signals a post-racial america, where the race of our current president is even a topic of conversation or more disturbingly, a point of contention. it is my belief that we won't be beyond race (gender, or class) issues in this country, at least not in my lifetime. i cling to some hope that i'm proven wrong.
i am happy that he lived, that he dedicated and gave his life for the advancement of people, for equality, for . . . peace. i am sad that after all his words and work, and the words and works of so many others (before and after) that we are still fighting for the ideals on which this country reportedly built. . .
. . . liberty and justice for ALL