Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One of my favorite shows growing up was the sitcom, A Different World. This show greatly influenced my decision to not only to attend an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), but to attend Hampton University. It reminded me of the fictional Hillman College, which was also in Virginia. A Different World would influence me again in my desire to become a college professor, particularly with the Martin verses Malcolm episode, called Great X-pectations. The students were given an assignment where they were to imagine what words had been exchanged between the two Civil Rights icons in their one and only meeting on March 26, 1964. I loved how the characters Dorian Heyward and Terrell Walker used the famous quotes of Malcolm and Martin to respectfully debate how to best approach opponents of the movement for equality. I cannot help but to think how far our people have come since that time period of inequality and segregation. But, we still have further to go. Dr. King talked a lot about the dream of racial equality and I am pretty sure that’s what most people are remembering today as we celebrate his birth. Dr. King represented so much more than that though. He was also for economic prosperity for minorities and the poor. We all know that Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 while in Memphis, Tennessee. He had been working with the striking sanitation workers, who were protesting for job safety, better wages, benefits, and a place in the union. This is common knowledge. You may have read my blog a few posts ago,about how Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had their retreats at Penn Center on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina in order to plan their Civil Rights strategies. What you may not know and what I have recently found, is that Penn Center was where Dr. King developed the “Poor People’s Campaign,” that served Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and poor Whites. You can read more about it here.

Economic prosperity is still a portion of Dr. King’s dream many of us have yet to realize. As hard as it is, we need to work towards this portion of the dream. We need to save our money a little at a time. We also need to invest in our neighborhoods, to rebuild our culture, which includes getting a good education and building our wealth for future generations. Yes, I am back on that again – Gentrify Your Own Self! So as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, please understand that this Civil Rights leader was much more than speeches and marches. He was more than a leader of Black people. He was a leader of all people.

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

The Ethnic Tip

As I am delving further into Cultural Studies, I am finding out some interesting things. So as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my blog, I have to do a service learning project. At times, these projects are geared towards social justice, meaning that awareness is brought to problems and resources are provided to address those problems. In my Cultural Studies class, we learned about the Highlander Research and Education Center, through assigned readings, a presentation made by our professor and this engaging film called, You Got to Move. For over an hour I sat there mesmerized as I watched the documentary of how Highlander was utilized to mobilize against different injustices that occurred not only in Appalachia, but in other places, particularly the Jim Crow South. Highlander actually reminded me of Penn Center on Saint Helena Island in South Carolina. I interned there a couple of summers, so I know a bit about it.

The Penn School was founded in 1862, three years before the end of the American Civil War. This normal school was a part of the Port Royal Experiment, which I kind of allude to in my book, Marshland. These philanthropists, abolitionist, and missionaries came to Beaufort after the Confederates were run off by Union soldiers. Their purpose was to prepare former slaves for freedom by teaching them to read and to learn trades. Like the Highlander, the Penn Center served as a safe place during the Civil Rights Movement where Black and White folks could convene, organize, and strategize in peace. In fact, Martin Luther King and Southern Christian Leadership Conference visited both sites. Today, the social justice purpose of Penn Center (What it is called today) is focused on preserving the Gullah culture in spite of the rapid development taking place on the Sea Islands.

One more thing before I sign off: So as I am writing this blog – in my sleep deprived state – I am strongly reminded of a particular The Fresh Prince of Bel Air Episode. Yes, I know that this is taking me off on a serious tangent, but not really. There is this episode that was first aired in 1991 (and a part of my VHS collection) called The Ethnic Tip where Vivian Banks, played by Janet Hubert, was teaching a Black History Course at Bel Air Academy. To my shock and delight, she assigns her nephew, Will Smith (Will Smith) and son, Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro) a paper on The Port Royal Experiment and the Penn School. If you want to see what episode I am talking about, you can view it here . I guess I am finding it necessary to mention The Ethnic Tip because as crazy as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air could be, it had some pretty good messages and I respect the fact that they even did an episode on such important institution of American History. I mean really, how many people actually know about places like Highlander and Penn Center?

Anyway, I am not going to give away the details, in case you have never seen it, but I will say that Aunt Viv, wouldn’t have had to tell me twice to do a 15 page paper. She might have even gotten one that was 25 pages. IJS.