“You on the wrong side of the track looking visibly shaken.” – Talib Kweli on “Respiration”
A Black history book will sit on my shelf by 2014. I owe a lot of my knowledge to going to a predominantly Black elementary-middle school in East New York where the struggle and accomplishments of African-Americans was a major part of the curriculum. I can’t say I’ve had such a focus on Black history since then. I took a bunch of African-American and Latino history courses in college, but that’s about it. Fast-forward to being the Black father figure in an interracial household, the foundation laid by freedom fighters like Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks have even more of an impact on me now.
Last week, I was standing on the sacred ground where Dr. King was gunned down—now where the National Civil Rights Museum sits. I was quiet for a few minutes trying to take in the reality of where I was. On April 4th, 1968, James Earl Ray took the life of one of the greatest human beings, who led a movement of non-violent protesting against segregation and discrimination in America. I’ve known the cause of people like Dr. King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, but to be in the place in which they put forth their tireless efforts is an incomparable feeling; one that I had to take very seriously. I’m lucky that I never had to endure the insults or hatred for my choice of friends or the lady in my life; where to live or where to go to school. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made as a nation in terms of tolerance. There’s always work to be done in more parts of the world that are still catching up to a liberal way of thinking. New generations are privileged to live Dr. King’s dream, especially when we have a Black president. With that in mind, the milestone of Barack Obama’s presidency or recent sad times like the slaying of Trayvon Martin seemed to be missing from the museum’s touch-screen kiosks that profile the civil rights struggle. My criticism of the museum’s comprehensive efforts to document the civil rights movement didn’t actually come until I saw a sign that boycotts the exhibit. Jacqueline Smith is the leader of the 25-year protest, which sees the museum perpetuating the violence Dr. King fought against. Her Web site names an a recreated version of Dr. King’s jail cell, and images of the Ku Klux Klan negative experiences at the museum. But they might have been removed as a result of her protest. I didn’t see either of the two. Smith’s beef is valid. I was glad to see both sides. Do the knowledge.