Planting The Seed, Lightpainting Series, stained glass window, Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
When I walked out into the sub-zero temperatures yesterday to warm up my car, a piece by NPR’s Enrique Rivera poured out of the Alpine radio speakers. Rubbing my hands together, and pulling the end of a wool cap down over my neck, I stared off into the distance at a couple of squirrels playing tag on an old growth oak, and listened to Enrique Rivera.
His family is from El Salvador, and in his research he had stumbled on a yellowed piece of paper, a poem about red spring lilies that his grandmother had written for Martin Luther King. The discovery led him to contemplate King’s influence on the Latino community. As I listened, I thought about what Martin Luther King means to me.
I’m old enough to remember his speeches on TV, graphic black and white photographs in Life magazine, and the sad day in 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis (now the National Civil Rights Museum) when King was assassinated. Regardless of where you lived in this country, who you were, or what you believed, the way Martin Luther King lived his life, impacted your own.
I honor Martin Luther King Day by remembering the past, and pulling it into the present as a reminder. Not only the power of the March on Washington in August 1963, and King’s I Have a Dream address, but the efforts of others to bring to light injustices in the history of my own state of Minnesota (Clayton Jackson McGhie in Duluth in 1920 or the Mankato 38 in 1862). I remember my tumultuous teenage years in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Women’s Movement, Stonewall and Harvey Milk. Or the efforts of women like Emma Lazarus.
Martin Luther King brought awareness to all of our civil rights. That’s what great leaders do. He spoke for all of us. And reminded us that it is our silence that we should fear:
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
No one wants to be silenced. As writers and artists, we work to find our voices every day. Many who have spoken out or taken action against what they see as unjust, have paid a high price. Martin Luther King was one such man.
For the Writing Topic this week, write everything you know about Martin Luther King. How old were you when he died, or were you even born? How does your family speak of his legacy; how did they see him in the 1950’s and 60’s. Is there any way that Martin Luther King has changed your life? How has he broken open stereotypes or paved the way for acceptance of your own differences.
Do a 15 minute Writing Practice that begins:
I Remember Martin Luther King…
Reverse it. Do another 15 minute Practice:
I Don’t Remember Martin Luther King….
If you get stuck, go to one of the links in this piece. Listen to Enrique Rivera’s commentary on his grandmother who was a writer and artist. Check out the links for Emma Lazarus, Stonewall, Duluth, or Mankato.
Think of conversations/controversies about civil or human rights in your own hometown. Your own family. What about those close to you, people you love, who live a different lifestyle and have opened your mind (and your heart) to a new definition of human rights.
Write everything you know about Martin Luther King.
-posted on red Ravine, Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 21st, 2008