I would like to see the movie, Selma, again — five years from now. I would guess – no, let me say that I pray, that I can appreciate it more then. Don’t get me wrong, Selma is an outstanding movie; I just wasn’t able to appreciate it the way it deserves to be appreciated. It’s like going to a 5 star restaurant when you are already full. Last week, I couldn’t see the movie cleanly: without the heaviness of all that has been occurring with race relations on my shoulders, the fog of fear in my eyes, and weight of weariness in my heart.
Timing. Several of my friends / amateur movie reviews said that the movie was apropos for today’s contentious time. Yes, a movie covering the 1960s racial divisions is unfortunately and woefully fitting for our issues today. But all I could think about on this past Martin Luther King’s Holiday, as my boys crunched on their popcorn and Skittles, aptly watching the history of Martin, was where is our King?
Where is our King? Where is that person who can galvanize us to make things better for these two boys sitting on either side of me, for everybody, for the country? I truly honor our history. Sometimes, however, I wonder if we forget to use our past to inform our future. In my head, I’m constantly asking the question, What is next? What is now? I’d like to progress the conversation from what King did then, to what would he do now.
Perhaps it would be too difficult to have one Black leader, such as Dr. King. Even when there was King, there was Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, Fanny Lou Hamer, and Stokeley Carmichael. There were countless soldiers in the movement, most of them nameless. There was oftentimes complete disagreement about how to affect change, but all were pushing change in their way, using their tools.
Of course I’m aware of the protests, read the countless statements by celebrities; but I don’t feel the energy of a true movement. I’ve pondered if integration has partly to blame. During the 60s, every Black experience was essentially the same. Regardless if you were a doctor or a garbage man, you lived in the same neighborhoods; your kids went to the same schools and restaurants; your families saw each other every Sunday morning at church. Abuse of some Black people was felt universally by all Black people. Then, it seemed like “us”, whereas now, for the middle class African American, I think that sometimes it seems like “them.”
For instance, I am a member of 3 large African American organizations. When unarmed Mike Brown was shot 6 times by a police officer in his neighborhood, 2 of the organizations’ leaders sent out a letter to the membership stating the organization’s stance. I read the well-written letters and thought, “so what.” What are we going to do? Lead us.
How powerful would it be that instead of commenting on a news story, we acted for a cause. What if our leaders called on us to ban shopping on Black Friday? Heck, what if we simply all wore a particular color on a certain day to show our support? Something! Anything! Perhaps, then we, the organization, would be the news story, or rather news worthy. Do we have an African American organization that has any power or influence?
Are our organizations essentially mute because they are made up of African Americans who feel as if they have made it? So while we sit around at our fancy dinners designed only to congratulate ourselves on how fabulous we are, pontificating about “how awful this or that is,” perhaps we should decide to do something. It’s not them; it is us.
I had a chance meeting, which led to a memorable conversation, with Dr. Clarence B. Jones, political advisor, counsel and draft speechwriter for Dr. King. We talked over dinner in a restaurant in the historic Fillmore district. I asked him what he thought today’s youth need. He grabbed my hand and said, “to know that we love them.” His direction was so simple, yet made so much sense.
Loving them turns “them into us.” It causes a movement. It creates an army of soldiers for change—a band of Kings.