Fifty years ago on this day, I was a 10-year-old (by five days) with very little knowledge about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We didn’t watch his iconic speech on television. My dad controlled the television, and he was working at least three jobs by then, and he often took us with him on his third or fourth job.
We weren’t so focused on Jobs, Peace and Justice. My dad had jobs, and it seemed every father in the neighborhood had a job (even a couple of mothers had jobs).
The streets were safe (relatively), we were not getting arrested (which is not to say we weren’t committing crimes — low level).
The biggest event of that year would occur three months later, when President Kennedy was assassinated, and television became important and I became an avid newspaper reader.
Five years later, Dr. King was murdered and I was reintroduced to him. He had become an afterthought to many young Black men, because a pseudo militance promoted demonstrations and challenging authority.
His death was seen as a validation that non-violence didn’t work and turning the other cheek left both cheeks stinging. The Hill District burned and the National Guard patrolled Manchester and there were racial fights in my high school for the next two years.
The first time I heard the term “Uncle Tom” applied was in reference to Dr. King.
But his death changed my life much more than his speech, or his life did.
The “I Have A Dream” speech was not aimed at Black people. It was a stinging reminder to White America that it had not lived up to its creed. Black America was given the task of holding White America’s feet to the fire, but it contained no other plan of action.
Dr. King’s dream is still just a dream, and may never have been more than a fantasy.