Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Refuse to Party Like It's My Birthday.

I wrote this is 2007 as an email to a few friends. I have decided to include it in my blog, as my inbox is once again flooded with "I am King" etc party invitations.

 All Good People,

   Party like royalty this MLK Sat w/ Dj Self.: No cover for all b4 12 & comp drinks b4 12 @ Mars2112!

   In my spam folder are a series of emails much like the ones above. I'm not quite sure how to process, much less express, my level of sorrow that in a mere 21 years, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Holiday has been reduced to nothing more than another opportunity for us to drop it like it's hot.

   There is no reason to pretend that there is a living cell is my body that can "remember" Dr. King. I've never heard his voice, except on tape. My first memory of his face is either the calendar in our house or the fan at church. I'm not a child of the Civil Rights Movement. I have no personal concept of what it means to be limited to racially segregated water fountains. I've never been hosed down by police or bitten by police dogs. I've never even been to a lunch counter, much less been clubbed in the back of the head for sitting at one. Yes, I sat at the back of the bus...but that was because it was the best seat on the bus to stick my head out of and yell "What's up?!" just in case I saw one of my girls as it rolled down DeKalb Ave. The time and space of my birth has granted me the privilege of being the recipient of the Civil Rights fruits, not the laborer.

   At 36, however, I do remember the exhilaration that came as a child every January 15th. I remember being the only one of my friends that stayed out of school in observation of his birth, long before '86. Every year on January 15th, my mother would go to work (bills had to get paid) but she would drop me off at The House of Lord Pentecostal Church and I would march with hundreds of others from Atlantic Ave to City Hall. There was never one adult assigned to me. I was just part of the crowd. I shuttled between Zakiya and Sister Betty in the choir to Charles Barron with the bullhorns. I had no "real" concept of what I was doing. I was 6, 7, 8 years old. All I knew, was that I got to walk in the MIDDLE of Brooklyn Bridge. The part where the cars drove!! AND I got to yell and sing in the streets! Yell and sing loudly! Not only that, but I wasn't going to get in trouble because of it. It was encouraged! Nobody was going to tell me to "be quite" or "stop that noise". I got to scream/sing and let the whole world know that "the one thing we did right was the day we decided to fight" and that I wasn't "gonna let nobody turn me around." It was magically. I got to carry posters demanding that Mayor Koch (the man I swore was Ed Purdue's "the chicken man" twin brother) be dumped! The energy of those annual events and all the other marchs in between, from the closing of Sydenhem Hospital to the murder of Eleanor Bumpers, that my mother always made sure I was at, engrained the notion of collective consciousness and collective power. The notion that there was strength, if not complete invincibility, in numbers. And most importantly, that there was always something worth fighting for that was larger than and greater than any one individual.

   Nope, I have no idea what the point of this email is. I'm not about to ask any questions or even attempt to provide answers. I'm just thinking out loud. I'm frustrated that my childhood memories are currently being mocked by parties. I'm completely disgusted at imagining what the true and real warriors of the generations before me must be thinking and feeling at the way we've come to honor Dr. King. Do whatever you do on January 15th, but please do it with pride, remembrance, and respect for all those who came before us and suffered, bleed and died so that, if you so desired (and how I hope you don't)...can "party like it's your birthday."

As always,

Yours in Struggle and Strength,

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