My parents and I permanently moved to Florida from Puerto Rico the summer before my 3rd grade year of school. I don’t have a particularly good recollection of that year or any early schooling, but there are certain moments in that year that stand out in my mind. It’s funny the things we remember. It must have been January/February, but at some point during the third grade we talked about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I had never heard of him. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t old enough, and this was something that was introduced to third graders and older, or who knows why. Whatever the reason, hearing about the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King was seared into my brain. I remember being beside myself. I could not believe that this had happened. That people treated other people poorly for any reason, but especially because of the color of their skin. It was unheard of and I was appalled. It made no sense and caused a stirring in me. I simultaneously developed great admiration for Dr. King. I remember 8-year-old me going to the library to check out books on Martin Luther King, Jr. I had fallen in love with this man. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve made the connection to these memories -that a strong sense of justice and fairness was woven into the fabric of who I am while I was formed.
Over the years I’ve experienced, witnessed and heard many things that show that Dr. King’s dream has not come fully true. I still know of towns (and have lived in some of them) throughout the South where races simply do not interact, where businesses and schools are essentially segregated, and all the less explicit racism – institutional and otherwise.
I’ve seen the film Selma twice already. Regardless of whatever factual problems it may or many not have, I think it contains a truth that goes beyond facts. I highly recommend this movie. It is emotional and inspirational. There are so many things within it that could inspire numerous blog posts — much food for thought. I think the biggest praise I have for this film is that it portrays its characters as humans – imperfect beings. Especially Dr. King is seen as someone who grew weary, who doubted, who had struggles in his own personal life and family. This did not make me think any less of Dr. King, and anyone who’s studied King wouldn’t be surprised. For me it was comforting and encouraging. It reminded me that God uses imperfect beings – people who don’t get everything right, but people who are willing to sacrifice. God uses people who are willing to be courageous and stand for truth, even when it’s hard; even when it would be personally easier to give up or remain quiet.
Another thing that resonated with me in a way that never had before was that Dr. King was in his late 20s when he began to lead the SCLC movement . Glory, the movie’s award winning song at one point says that “[to accomplish this] it takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy.” All of us together, not competing with each other or devaluing the other. It made me think of the things that separate us that are not race related- barriers, no less. Dr. King speaks of this and so much more to me. A courageous, unexpected leader who believed in the unbelievable.
Whether it’s black, brown, gay, straight, male, female, young, old, or any ‘other’ that causes us to make distinctions of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ ‘they’ and ‘we,’ we must stop believing the lies that anyone or group is somehow superior or better to others; stop building walls.
Eight-year-old Esther is still in me, stirred up and longing for genuine equality. I dream Dr. King’s dream still, and am thankful that God can use even imperfect me in small and powerful ways. God can and does use imperfect you. Believe the unbelievable. Fight for what is right. Don’t allow yourself to be silenced. Take courage. Practice peace.
Dr. King is still one of my heroes. Would that we all live lives that are willing to sacrifice for what is right and true.