I have always been entranced by the narrative of history ever since my father mandated that reading the family collection of World Book encyclopedias was to be my sole form of entertainment. Initially, I equated it with cruel and unusual punishment before I realized the power that came with the comprehension and respect of history.
The gravity of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington was not lost on me, in lieu of professional considerations that kept me from being a participant in the commemoration of one the most pivotal events in American History. I had to settle with listening to the recap of the day that was piloting my car through traffic during my commute home. The emotion that was generated by the speakers of today, however genuine in their disbursement pales in comparison to what was delivered by Dr. King and the others that spoke to the quarter million people gathered in the Capitol on that August afternoon a half century ago.
Upon arriving home and making my rounds of the news headlines I noticed the hashtag #advancingthedream. And I found myself thinking… What is it that I am doing to advance the dream? What value am I contributing to the honor of Dr. King and the other Americans who stood in the face of institutional indifference of their humanity to demand that they be acknowledged and respected for who they were.
As I pondered this question, for a split second I considered that my answer would be a unequivocal NOTHING; but just as quickly as that thought began to enter my head it left, as I found myself consumed with the host of life lessons that were imparted to me by my parents and my maternal Grandmother in particular.
Although my Grandmother did not speak during the March on Washington, I view her in the same vein as Dr. King and the other giants of the movement. When she speaks, I find myself hanging on each syllable as everything that rolls from her lips holds a nugget of wisdom that has served her well in her 90+ years on this planet and I realize that this is the person that I most want to be like.
My Grandmother and her siblings like many African-Americans during The Great Migration of the early 20th century left intolerable conditions in the South to migrate to the “Promised Land” of the North where opportunities were more plentiful.
Whenever I ask about the conditions that led to her departure from her native Alabama, it always amazes me how magnanimous she is in reflecting on the situations that led her to make Chicago her home. Her astute observation that “You can’t fault folks that don’t know enough to come in from out of the rain” is a metaphor that has powered me throughout my life in retrospect. Not harboring anger at hatred and/or stupidity, but instead feeling pity for those that are burdened with it and succeding in spite of it not because it…
It is by honoring our parents, grandparents and those who came before us that we can best “Advance the Dream”. It is about justifying the sacrifices that they made for us in spite of the obstacles that were erected in their path. It is our mandate, our duty to the world we live in, to leave it in a better place than we found it, by giving more than we take from the world.