Friday, January 12, 2007

Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud!!! or The Day I Realized I Was A Black Girl

On the way to work today, I heard Stevie Wonder's song Happy Birthday (Dr. King).
EVERY time I hear that song, I get all "weepy".

Here's why:

Between the ages of 4 thru 11, I was raised in England on Mildenhall Air Force Base (also Lakenheath and Feltwell AFB's).
Growing up, I never really noticed the separation between blacks and whites..I pretty much thought everybody was just different shades of something....anyway...I had this social studies teacher who was the coolest person I'd ever seen.
She had long brown hair with a part in the middle and she was real "granola" and hippie like.
Along with these two sisters that had their hair in plaits and beads (I thought they were pretty damn cool looking too), she brought up the idea of teaching Black History at our elementary school..*Gasp*, Clutch The Pearls!!!

I was excited but I wasn't sure why...yet...
On Martin Luther King's birthday she arranged to have Stevie's song played over the school
As soon as it started playing, something inside me felt so proud to be black. That whole day, kids were treating us black kids like we were rock stars or something..I remember one of the white kids asking me what is was like to be black. I just shrugged and said "I dunno"..because it's not like I've ever been anything else....

I remember running home and telling my mom: "I'm a black girl!!..... and I'm proud!!!"

She probably thought I was a goof ball, but she just looked at me and said: "That's a good thing, Baby. Always remember that"

When I look back at my childhood, I always count that day as my "Best Day Ever".

It's interesting, to me at least, that some 15 years later, I ended up working at The King Center in Atlanta for nearly 5 years.
Even though my desk window faced Dr. King's Crypt, I let myself get caught up in the day to day politics and foolishness that happens in every office and I never really appreciated the influence his "dream" had on me.

While I was cleaning last week, I found a snapshot of me and Mrs. King. She was such a great woman, not only because of the obvious reasons, but because she was one of the funniest people I didn't know THAT did ya??? Yes, me and Mrs. King had many a discussion about aliens and UFOs.....

After finding that picture, I finally realized all that the King's have done and how I, and many of the people I know, have benefitted from it.

I told this story to an older co-worker once and she said that she had also had one of these "moments" when she was little but that it was about the late, great James Brown. She explained that back in the late 50's and early 60's, you didn't see many black people on TV.
James Brown was on one night and it was like God himself was performing! Half the neighborhood was crowded around her TV and she remembers standing there, crying her eyes out screaming the famous lyrics: Say It LOUD, I'm Black and I'm PROUD!!
I wonder if she counts that as her "Best Day Ever" and does she think of it when "certain people" here in the deep south treat her like crap?

Maybe So....

Happy Birthday Dr. King.
Rest in Peace James Brown


Orhan Kahn said...

Absolutely awesome to read something not dedicated to your boyfriend, Belly. And such a touching, insightful post it was.

Riotgrrlwargasm said...

You're making me all weepy too. When the King holiday was first recognized as a national holiday, I was super excited, but this year I'm really sad and kind of feeling lost. I feel like there's no one to rally around. Where are the other people who are pissed and not going to take it anymore? Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.

Linka72 said...

Orhan, the thought of him being my boyfriend has made me rethink eating breakfast..wait, I just found a new diet plan!!!

Linka72 said...

Riot..The sad thing is, even at the King Center, everybody has become disillusioned..sad but true

skinnylittleblonde said...

What a beautiful post! I love your memories & had to smile when I read about you running home to your Momma calling out 'I'm black & I'm proud.' (Reminds me of Steve Martin in 'the Jerk'...'I was raised a poor black boy.')

Things have changed since the day of MLK & his I have a Dream speech, but there is so much more room for change, on both ends of the stick. I too live in Georgia & several years ago I asked all of my co-workers, one-by-one, what MLK Day meant for them. Almost all of them simply said 'it means the banks are closed' or 'it means I get the day off.'

I'm glad to hear that you got to know Mrs. King & I'm grateful that you shared these memories with us. It is sad that MLK's dream is so forgotten, misunderstood and/or taken for granted.

This little post is a great reminder of the real world, one not reflected on TV, in which we live.

You keep chasing those dreams Linka & one day you will escape the Belly.

SAS said...

Beautiful words. And to tag a memory, a moment, a revelation, "Best Day Ever" makes it a Keeper, something cherished that you can carry with you forever like a childhood charm. Thank you.