Thursday, January 14, 2016

I was never shy growing up. In fact, I can recall the term “social butterfly” being used fairly frequently. I made friends everywhere I went. If we were on a family vacation, I made friends with the other kids at the hotel pool. If we went to a carnival, I picked out new friends to ride the Ferris wheel with. I was probably over-friendly, striking up conversations with complete strangers, no matter their age. Or race.

I don’t remember any of my friends being different. They were my friends no matter what color their hair was, or if they had brown, blue or green eyes, or if they spoke a little slower or threw the ball with a different hand. The color of the skin of my friends never crossed my mind.

As we reflect this week on the teachings and tremendous work started by the late Martin Luther King, Jr., I am reminded of what it was like for me to grow up in a diverse community. I remember sitting at recess while Kameelah French-braided my hair because I never learned how to. I remember being treated as a member of the family by the Caldwells. And I remember donning a leotard and practicing ballet with Morgan. They were all my friends, but I never saw them as different than me.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and I recall the emotion I felt as I walked through and read about the horrific things these people, these friends, went through. It is something I will never begin to understand, but I believe I can appreciate and honor their efforts in many ways.

Most of all, I recall the chilling feeling of walking through the Lorraine where King last laughed, last had a conversation, last read a newspaper. Peering into his room, time stood still. I could imagine him sitting in the chair, a cup of coffee close by, as he read the headlines of the newspaper strewn on the corner of the bed. The coffee was left untouched.

Though his life was cut terribly short, the work he started in the ending of segregation and cultural unfairness based on the color of skin was just beginning. Now, in 2016, we are sadly still dealing with the social and economic injustices in our country.

So, I will try to do my part. I will continue to raise my son to also not see the race of the friends he chooses. I will continue to support those who fight for the freedoms that everyone in America deserves. And I will continue being the social butterfly, befriending whomever needs the companionship of a girl raised on the belief that we all bleed the color red.

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