That year, Jim Lucas gave dramatic readings during King Day events. It was as if he channeled Dr. King. He looked like Dr. King. He sounded like Dr. King. While I know it wasn’t, it seemed as if it was.
I along with everyone else knew that on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, where he had traveled to support sanitation workers who had been on strike for nearly two months demanding safer working conditions and the right to join AFSCME Union Local 1733. Dr. King spent his life fighting for social justice, non-violence, equality, and human rights.
He moved me. I wrote this in my journal my freshman year at Bloom, “It felt as if Dr. King was speaking to me through this man. I felt as if I was being touched and called on by Dr. King himself…It could also be that going to school in Bloomsburg has made me see that racism does exist and Dr. King’s speeches helped me realize that he was searching for ways to alleviate tension.”
Just months earlier after starting school at Bloom, I became a founding member of a ground that we named Students Together Alleviating Racial Tension (S.T.A.R.T.). The group was a mix of students who sponsored and participated in a variety of activities. The one that really was the most important allowed us to visit the local middle and high school to talk about race and culture. At that time, the local community had very little racial differences. Typically, the only people of color walking down the street happened to be a college student.
So, what does that do to a community? Does it make it more accepting of differences? And is it easy to find similarities in those differences?
Many days and nights I didn’t think so. I do hear it’s different in Bloomsburg these days. But, how far have we come overall in the U.S.? I think we all may have different answers to that one.
I grew up in a family and town that is very multicultural. I don’t ever really think that I thought about racial disparities until I started attending Bloomsburg. But while I was there, it was on. I lived, breathed, and slept S.T.A.R.T. I felt it was such important work to do. I wanted to leave Bloomsburg making a difference, even if it were for just one person.
That still lives with me today. I have this desire to do more. I’m working towards that path of doing more including a project that I hope to share more about in the next few months. Until then, I take the opportunity to learn each day.
I know that there are still a lot about Dr. King I have to learn. I look forward to learning more when I visit the King Memorial in Washington D.C. this fall. The memorial, which is scheduled to open on August 28, 2011, is in a direct line between the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and the Jefferson Memorial. The opening falls on the 48th anniversary of King’s speech.
There was so much more to the man than many tend or want to remember. In addition to talk about racial discrimination, he was also an opponent of the Vietnam War, a critic of U.S. foreign policy and economic injustices.
In reflecting on today in history, I try to think of what Dr. King would say about where we are as a country with our people. I’m not so sure he would be so proud. What about you?