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King Observance Reminds Us The Struggle Continues
1/23/2013 12:36:48 PM

By Barney Blakeney

I awoke this morning, Jan. 21, hearing the story of the late Dr. Martin L. King Jr.’s rise through the Civil Rights Movement on television.


I sleep with the television on. I’m an insomniac so I usually watch television until I fall asleep. I’m weaning myself off much of the garbage that’s on television so I’m watching a lot of news and information stuff. Of course, all the channels I watch either had stuff about King or the presidential inauguration on this morning.


All week long there has been a lot of stuff about the Civil Rights Movement on television. Most of that stuff I’ve seen before. At my age, documentary footage of the Civil Rights Movement is old news. I’ve seen all the stuff about the march from Selma to Montgomery, the sit-ins and Freedom Rides.


I grew up with the disturbing images of dogs being allowed to attack Black protesters. Such images always makes me angry. As a child during the Civil Rights Movement I recall, first hand, some of the discriminatory acts of the era. Even where there was no hatred, there was discrimination. White bus drivers may not have hated you as a Black person, but you still had to go to the back of the bus.


I’m among the fortunate ones who never personally saw any of the brutality of the Civil Rights Movement. Like most Charlestonians, I suffer from the mental abuse that is the legacy of racism in this community, but I missed the roughest stuff.


I don’t like being reminded of that stuff. I don’t like the way it makes me feel.


So last night as I watched the BET television network’s presentation of “Roots” I changed the channel when scenes such as the whipping of runaway slave Kunta Kinte came on.


Waking to dogs being put on protesters and King being hit with bottles wasn’t my idea of a great way to start the day.


Of course some of the stuff was compelling. There were bits and pieces of history I am unfamiliar with on the programs.


I was reminded of the late Listervelt Middleton’s ETV program  about Black History, “For The People”. Listervelt often had scholars of Black History on the program who provided information that usually is left out of textbooks. The show was profoundly informative. But I found it often redundant.


As an avid reader and lover of history, most of the stuff they talked about on Listervelt’s show I already knew.


You see my mom was no joke. She kept a lot of books and reading material around our house as us kids grew up. We got our family’s first set of encyclopedia books through a promotion at the neighborghood grocery store - buy some groceries, get an encyclopedia book. I’m blessed to have a pretty good knowledge of Black History.


That’s what I thought about as I watched the Civil Rights Movement stuff this morning - this is old stuff I’m already familiar with so why should I watch? Then like an epiphany, the light went on.


First of all, not everybody knows this civil rights stuff. There are young people walking around our communities today who have no clue about the struggle that was made to achieve the limited civil rights we enjoy today. Never mind that the game ain’t over and that the struggle continues.


After acknowledging that reality I thought It’s really imperative that those images of the Civil Rights Movement continue to be shown for another reason. I thought of the Jewish maxim, “Never Forget”.


Generations of Black people always should be reminded of the horrible price our people paid and continue to pay to achieve equity in this world.


After having my epiphany I’m thinking it’s unfortunate that we only provide such examples of our history annually during the King celebration or during Black History Month. Like other folks, our kids should have to take regular cultural lessons so they would know their history. Maybe then there would be less self abuse among Black people.


This morning I realized that the regular presentation of those things that shape Black people’s existence in America and throughout the world are important if our struggle is to be successful.


I know that I’ll still be disturbed by the images I’ll watch more purposefully in the future. But maybe now, at my ripe old age, I’ll better understand what I am watching.





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