Aside from certain family members; my children, husband and father in that order, I would say the people who influenced me the most are people that I never even met and in the case of two of them never will; but they helped to shape my concepts of equality, discrimination and right from wrong. The year it all began was six years before my birth. The year in ended was January 20th 2009.
Rosa Parks began something on December 1, 1955 that has finally come to a climax with the inauguration of Barack Obama. She started a fire in this nation. A fire for equality for all. A fire for freedom for all. Her dreams became the dreams of a nation. The dreams of Rosa and subsequently, Dr. King have been realized finally. I have been a fan of both Dr. Kings and Rosa since I have been able to think for myself. Where I grew up in northeastern PA the civil rights issues were not part of my daily life. There were no racial issues in my home town because there were no other races in my home town. I was young (6) when King was murdered and I don’ really remember the events as they happened, but from history books. I believe that if King hadn’t been murdered he would very likely have been our first black president. Hence, the reason (one of many theories I am sure) he was murdered to begin with.
The one thing that struck me the most about the man was he devotion to change without violence. His “I Have A Dream” speech is one of the greatest speeches in American history. My favorite line in the entire speech is “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This is every parents dream, it is the common thread of being a parent. Color of skin should never be the issue. A person’s word, or character as King put it should be all that matters. It’s the dream of a better life for our children than we had as children. It’s a common thread that ANY parent or prospective parent has for the next generation.
King predicted in 1964 that there would be a black president within 40 years. King, Rosa, Malcom X, Gandhi and a whole host of others who pushed for equality for ALL must be smiling down from Heaven right now. And I predict that on the 20th of this month, just five days after what would have been Kings 80th birthday they will be having one hell of a party too.
With this celebration though, we must understand that Obama has a very difficult task in front of him and the mess that Bush/Cheney left in their wake will take a VERY long time to undo. I pray that the people of the world and in particular America, allow the man time to begin the repairs. And I beg that if things don’t turn out exactly as everyone wants (and we all know he won’t please everyone) that we don’t revert back to the racist attitudes of the south that began this journey.