It wasn’t just the blustering winds and frigid temperature that had my eyes watering as we rolled down Main Street. It was the children, those little innocent spectators waving and cheering on the sideline- and about the youngsters who strutted ahead of us in the parade. This Martin Luther King Day was all about the children, not about an old black disabled veteran from a bygone age, whose body was racked with a life debilitating respiratory disease. (Parade Clips)
O how I wish that I was young again!
My dreams have perished with time. But sitting atop a parade float that said Obama ’08, I had reason to hope. Maybe these, my grandkids and great-grandkids, would see the “Promise Land” of Martin’s dream. Maybe one day a man would be judged by the content of his character, and not by the color of his skin. Maybe Barack Obama represent that day.
They will write about Martin- his life and legacy- what it meant. And through their eyes, each will see something different. The image of Martin, iconize in death, some writers have made him larger than life. Still, half the story is not told. Nevertheless, they will remember him. Tomorrow, after the day is past, they will again forget.
The news cameras panned the crowds and asked the children what they knew about the man Martin Luther King. One child replied, “He was a man who loved everybody.” Sounded more like Jesus than Martin, but this is what children see when they idolize such a national hero. Why should an old beat-up civil rights soldier make them think otherwise? Every child has a right to a fairytale.
But Obama is not a “fairytale”, no matter what Bill Clinton said. But then, he is no Martin either. Maybe Obama is the end of which Martin dreamed, where an African-American running for the presidency of the United States would be judged by the content of his character. At least, so far, he has conducted himself honorably despite being reviled by so many. Maybe this is why an old Negro like me can ride a parade float down the Main Street of Fort Worth with hope that the day dreamed about may be a day come to pass.
Already I have sent too many of my kids off to war, and some have never come home. Although I knew better and should have warned them, I would rather let them die still believing in the future of America than to remind them of our grim past. Maybe this is why I will not tell all these beautiful innocent children how Martin died, except to say he died that we might be free. In the meantime, I will let their school teachers tell them the myths. Until they are older, I will continue to say, “Yes, there is a Santa Claus.”
Why destroy their bright-eyed hope? Life is cruel enough as it is. It is not necessary to tell them that Barack Obama is a black man. This they can see. But telling them what it means to be a black man in America is a story, in a different chapter, in an altogether different book- except now, there may be a different ending.
After the parade and a couple of hours of thawing out, I had a chance to visit a different group of young people- a group of black teenagers who live in extremely impoverished conditions. They, too, had a message on this particular holiday. Their message was also of hope.
“I will graduate,” they declared, to a church audience of about 300 people. “I will succeed.”
The audience, filled with dignitaries, educators, parents, pastors, and community volunteers, listened intently- some with skepticism. We had all seen and heard it before, only to be disappointed by the statistics of declining graduation rate.
Wallace Bridges, the program coordinator, blared out the number of at-risk kids “missing” out of the school system. He literally screamed out his feelings for the many kids who sought refuge in his home, some sleeping on the floor simply because they had no haven to shelter them from the harshness of poverty and broken families. By the time he recounts the ones who dropped out and wind up in prison, he is in tears. The church audience is also in tears.
“Don’t nobody care,” Bridges relates one boy telling him. “If somebody cared I would go back to school.” But the child never went back, Bridges said. Today, that child is a statistic among the incarcerated.
Maybe this is why I wore my Obama ’08 button to the church. To declare, there is hope, and maybe Obama is that hope. Who knows? But should I let hope die, simply because “nobody cares”?
People can say what they will. They can tell me everything Obama is not. But none of the naysayers can give me words of hope. And, if they cannot convince me, how can they convince my kids?
Normally, I don’t do politics. But I’ll be damn if I stand on the sideline and criticize everything and everybody while my children are dying from lack of hope. I must mount up what little energy I have left in this half-dead body and give it a good fight. If and when I go out of this world, it will not be out the back door. I’ll come out the front door with both guns blazing, fighting for the Right of the Child.
DELEGATE COUNT (as of today):
Obama 13 Delegates
Clinton 12 Delegates