How I Spent My MLK Day
Today's observances took an unexpected (but good) turn.
I live in one of those Southern sundown towns. Though no one still stops carloads of blacks and tells them to keep on passing through and make sure they're out of town before sundown, the legacy of a shamefully racist past lingers in the tiny percentage of blacks living here. So there are no observances locally.
I go to the county seat where the demographics are much different and participate in a march with a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to Dr. King and civil rights erected at the only intersection of streets named after LBJ and Martin Luther King in the United States. That's usually followed by a pie social and auction that's a fundraiser for the historic black community center there.
This year the community center was under repairs and at first they thought they'd better cancel it. But a local black church in the historically black neighborhood opened their doors to a conversation. It was lovely - from the heart, relaxed, accepting of the minority of whites who were present as well as the agnostics and Muslims in their midst. I was a little late and just listened. After it was over the pastor approached me and just asked for my feedback. We had a wonderful conversation for perhaps a half hour after most of the several dozen people who'd come had left.
There was a different feeling this year, looking for ways to make a difference together. Maybe it was being in a place of worship too. I know when we stood and joined hands for the final prayer, there seemed to be an unusual degree of acceptance for everyone. I'm glad I went - and hope that it will be there again next year. In fact, I wish there were other occasions to come together over the course of the time between.
That way no one group would have all the responsibility of organizing, publicizing, following up, etc.