April 4th is a day that always rings sad for me. Despite I was born eight years after his murder, the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. always hold heavy over me.
He came to Chicago several times during his life, working for equality, marching for civil rights and he even lived over in Lawndale for a time (there’s a new apartment complex named for him over there), but mostly he was frustrated with his efforts here.
Regardless, I feel I owe him for without the trails he blazed, the doors he opened, the laws he helped get passed, I would not be writing this blog today.
Sure there were other leaders, Malcom X, Medgar Evers and there were politicians who helped get legislation through including President Lyndon Johnson and there were judges/justices such as Thurgood Marshall who had a hand in the civil rights world as well.
But it was Dr. King who was the face of the message, who literally took to the streets and not only worked for civil rights but for fair treatment and overturning unjust laws. He died working for the trash men of Memphis trying to get them better working conditions.
And of course things haven’t been the same since he’s been gone, sure we have President Obama but like me, Obama has his debt to Dr. King too. All of us younger black men do.
I met Dr. King’s daughter Bernice about twenty years ago at St Sabina and was humbled by her presence. To think her father did so much in 39 years on this planet. I’ll be that old in 3 years and feel I’ve accomplished a fraction of what he did.
I’m grateful for the opportunities that I had, because men of his generation (like my dad), went through hell to make it easier for us younger black men.
And even more so, men like my grandfathers and step grandfather, migrated from the south for a better life for themselves, their families and those of us yet to come.
Dr. King and his contemporaries sacrificed for the greater good, his life was cut short so our lives could be easier.
For that I will always be overwhelmingly grateful, yet do what I can to make it better for those coming behind me.