Who Am I to write about MLK Day? Others are far more qualified, like the Freedom Rider Jim Zwerg I met in Washington, DC. I told him I envied him the experience.
Like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, with whom I was also privileged to share space and interact while in DC. The aura was unlike any other I'd experienced. He was simply the most advanced person I had ever met in my life, persisting in his 24/7 activism despite a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.
Or like Rep. John Lewis, whose book signing I attended. Shaking hands with him was like the same experience I didn't have with the Rev. King but of course would have wanted. Rev. King came alive for me at that moment.
As a high school senior in Atlanta, a hugely bigoted place back then, I glimpsed Rev. King and his wife Coretta Scott King at a department store in Lenox Square. I was dressed in the uniform of a school that had not accepted Dr. King's son's application there, but didn't consider that as I did a double take and gawked in amazement. "Hi," said Ms. Scott breezily. I couldn't move for a while, so amazed.
And I again might have shared space with Ms. Scott at the 40th anniversary rally celebrating Rev. King's I Have a Dream speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Only I misread my stage pass as a press pass and promptly climbed the scaffolding with the rest of my colleagues. I did achieve some authentic photography that I'll look for to accompany this story! (The only photo I could find was of the Lincoln Memorial that day at sunset, which I was unable to upload!)
Ultimately, I can write about MLK Day as a witness to rank racism during my childhood and actually throughout my life. And as someone who has achieved dreams as well as fallen short of them. And as someone bitterly disappointed that chances are large that I'll leave this world in far worse condition than the one I was born into. Rev. King died bitterly opposed to the Vietnam War, still battling racism, specifically in Memphis but in reality everywhere in some form or another.
But it seems to me that the greatest tribute I can pay to Dr. King is to reprint my account of the fortieth anniversary tribute to his "I Have a Dream" speech, published in the September 2003 issue of my then hardcopy monthly potpourri Words, UnLtd. (Now a webpage at wordsunltd.com.)
40th Anniversary March on Washington
for Jobs, Peace, & Freedom
August 23, 2003
Steps of the Lincoln Memorial
Sponsored by 100 Organizations, including
NAACP and National Peace Action
by Marta Steele
As Bush and Cheney have left Washington, DC, for August, spending our tax money on their various travels to raise funds for election 2004 when they're not otherwise relaxing, the poor people of this country have moved into the district, having marched there from Mississippi led by Cheri Honkala, founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights League. Let that be an omen of things to come. The midsummer march, the tents by Washington Monument, and on August 23 the Fortieth Anniversary Rally for Jobs, Peace, & Freedom all bring to mind and life the labors of Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights miracle worker who transformed society in this country and around the world. A further major focus of the rally was the passing of the activist torch from the 1960s generation to their lively hip-hop descendants, confident and inspiring in their enthusiasm and commitment.