Sunday, August 21, 2011

Witnessing President Barack Obama dedicating the final Capitol Mall monument ever to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor

In exactly one week, I'll be witness to President Barack Obama dedicating the final Capitol Mall monument ever to Dr. Martin Luther King. Am readying myself, my family, for next week's road trip retracing of the "March on Washington" journey to DC. What a moment in history.

Next step in preparing for our journey will be educating my daughter about the bravery, humanity and transformational outcomes of the efforts of Dr. King (and the warrior spirit of the team around him and before him) will be the viewing of "Citizen King." This excellent History Channel documentary can be purchased on line. Though she enters her second year of study at Columbia, I am pretty sure she has had little more than a "I have a dream" recitation leading up to MLK holiday. Shame on me.

An unplanned step in our Monument trip preparation was viewing "The Help" last week. Even in this Disney-sanitized story, the film reminded me of just how recent and prevalent post-slavery residues of African American powerlessness, disposability and airtight economic / educational prospects were in America. These systemic caste constructs weren't limited to deep South Mississippi, nor were they carried out by a few bad people as a film would suggest. These airtight practices of race-based discrimination in education, housing, voting rights, public accommodations, legal redress, economic exclusion, etc. were, in fact, the way of the nation / the law of the land (had it not been, the decades long resistance would not have been necessary). To borrow a metaphor from "The Help," African American existence was a daily shit pie. Having been born in 1958, it is amazing to ponder of all of the hard fought change that has been brought forth in my lifetime.

I will be internalizing Dr. King's role in galvanizing our nation and government to see and be its better self ...despite its history. I've been pondering the greatest post-ceremony homage I can pay to the many who, over the decades and in their own ways, cleared a path for a better America and extending the laws of the land to "all God's children." This is what I have come up with:

-I will remember that that it is always the right time to do the right thing
-I will vote (continue to)
-I will look at my world, "have a dream" ...and take steps towards bringing it to pass
-I will remain informed about the human inequities in my time, my community, my world ...and engage with my voice to remedy them
-I will help in my own way those who might be bettered by my efforts
-I will believe that change is possible and that my world can be a better place
-I will celebrate the promise / possibility of young people and the content of their character

What will YOU do, my friend?

To those who, since we arrived in this land, stood, who fought, who merely endured somehow, you many unheralded and mostly nameless souls are as also remembered and celebrated.

Have your Urban Chameleon story featured by e-mailing