St. Matthew's Episcopal

MLK Day

Posted on: February 3rd, 2014 by maint

In a recent blog post on the Daily Kos, [Here] there is a quote by the writer’s father: My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”

On this day, April 4, 1968, my sister and I were wandering around the streets of Monroe, Georgia – checking out the pool hall, flitting in and out of Woolworths, strolling about the town square pretending we were “all growed up” when a throng of African-American folks suddenly poured into sidewalks and spilled over the pavement. I remember their faces: some were filled with anger, some dazed and confused, but above all, there was an eerie silence that was trying above things to keep in check a gut wrenching groan that carried an oncoming tsunami of grief.

Suddenly, my sister and I were no longer the white majority. Two little white girls had never been exposed to such terrifying emotion – and certainly not on such a vast scale. (When you are very young, such scale as those of space and emotion is relative.) But before we could even wonder what we should do, a kindly, middle aged African-American woman gathered us up, took our hands, and brought us to the very center of Monroe – the Civil War obelisk – and instructed us firmly to stay put until our mother would be along to get us “directly.”

Recent Picture of the Civil War Obelisk in Monroe, GA.

Recent Picture of the Civil War Obelisk in Monroe, GA.

No sooner had she left us when our mother did, in fact, drive up in the Ford LTD and told us to get in. “What’s happening?” we asked her. “Dr. King has been shot.” She said it very calmly and we drove slowly home in silence.

I wish I could tell you that I knew who Dr. King was at that time. I wish I could tell you that my mother did not fear the crowds she drove alongside until we reached our house.

What I can tell you is that I have spent the better part of my life trying to face, work through, discover and heal the racism that was part of my southern heritage. It still lives with me, I know, but today, I give thanks to that unknown woman who practiced the loving non-violence that was exemplified in the person of the prophet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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