“If I answered all criticism, I’d have time for nothing else.”
President Abraham Lincoln
Why are we so in tune with using a fast food drive thru rather than going inside of the establishment to order our food? Have we forgotten the monumental “sit-in” of the Civil Rights era?
Now tell me: at what point did sitting in the back of the bus become the general placement for the cool kids? Without the legal ramification of being removed from the bus, we will by-pass the empty seats at the front and walk directly to the rear – subconsciously perpetuating the racial injustice that led to the infamous bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1960s.
At the age of 14, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won an oratorical contest in Dublin, Georgia sponsored by the Negro Elks. Ironically, the subject matter of his speech was “The Negro and the Constitution.” On the bus ride back to Atlanta, he and his schoolteacher, Mrs. Bradley, were forced to stand in the aisle for the duration of the 90 miles.
The white bus driver insisted they give up their seats to white passengers. In an interview with Playboy Magazine (1965), Dr. King describes that moment as the angriest he had ever been in his life. Obviously, this was a dark period that preceded the dawn of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts, and the historical achievements that labeled Ms. Rosa Parks as the first lady of the Civil Rights Movement.
The darkest days these pioneers were forced to endure have made way for the dawn of a new era. An era in which so many of us have elected to stem the progression of civil disobedience by rationalizing the plights of inequality and racial injustice as being the norm.
The persistence of a leader is what gets him/her through their journey. A leader will reach their potential the best way they can. It doesn’t matter if the road of travel is paved, riddled with potholes, or leads to a bridge road blocked by angry racist. The leader will meet his/her destination because there is a purpose etched within their journey.
In the process, a trail is blazed for upcoming generations to evolve – not regress. As an elder of the “upcoming generations,” I am obligated to articulate the similarities between today’s platforms for activism (death penalty debate, culturally biased voter registration laws, and same sex marriage) and the quest for seeking equality under the umbrella of civil rights (integration of schools, local sit-ins, the right to vote and interracial marriage).
Dr. King’s legacy is the blueprint for being a societal thermostat; one who changes an environment and molds the popular opinion. I do not have the luxury of discussing my personal journey with Dr. King, but for some reason I can hear him advising me through his words from 1965:
“You can’t ride a man’s back unless it’s bent.”
I choose to walk upright as we embark on the 5th years of the W2TM journey. This brand of journalism is an ongoing homage to the memory of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his belief in nonviolence being a powerful and just weapon. I am the change I wish to see in the world.
Peace and Love,
Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann