In honor of my homeboy Martin Luther the King, whose birthday is celebrated today -- and my other homeboy, Barack Obama the President, whose second term in office is ushered in today -- I spent some time this morning reflecting on my ancestors and elders, the people whose lives made it possible for me to live the privileged life I do today.
Living in a place like Baltimore, it's easy to forget that, in my grandparents' lifetimes, there were segregated schools and prohibitions on interracial marriage and discriminatory laws that kept black people from buying homes or seeking education in certain colleges or earning as much as their non-black peers. Black people were systematically held back, hazed, hated and even killed.
But so many good people recognized this injustice and instead of just tut-tutting about it with sympathetic others, they withstood hatred and danger and ostracizing to FIGHT to make sure that things would change. I thank those fighters with all my heart.
Some people helped the cause of equality by quietly going about the business of living their lives, with dignity and determination, shoulders squared for the hatred and the obstacles that thwarted them daily. They are the doers. I like to think that many in my own family -- grandparents and great-grandparents and Aunties and Uncles I never met -- are among that group. I hope somehow they know how much I thank, and love, them too.
It is amazing to think that we have come so far in such a relatively short period of time. What a poetic
coincidence that President Obama will serve a second term in office,
beginning on the day we observe the birthday of Dr. King.
But today I want to thank all of the heroes (as I should every day). Not just the big names, and not just the fighters, but the everyday doers, too, for paving the way for me and my family. Their insistence (in both big and small ways) that the world recognize their humanity means that I don't have to fight quite as hard. I don't have to do quite as much.
I can just be.
Thank you to all those who lives and deaths provide me with that comfortable existence, that ability to just be. Considering what their lives were like, that feels to me like a supreme privilege. Thank God they knew that it was, in fact, a right.