Today was the most shocking day of my life. I guarantee I will never be the same after this day.
It started this morning when my friend Jamal asked me what I was doing after work. When I told him I had nothing planned, he invited me to join him in attending a speech to be given by the esteemed Malcolm X, one of the greatest minds around these days.
I thought about it all day today. I have dreamed of having this opportunity my whole life. Though I live in the Big Apple now, I will never forget my roots in the heart of Mississippi. How could I ever forget the horror I felt when my daddy got hanged by a group of hooded men for entering a whites-only general store. I’ve seen so much in my life that makes no sense, and today was almost enough to cause me to lose what little hope I have left for a real sense of community in this country.
I remember a speech President Johnson gave last year at the University of Michigan when he made a simple statement about being a citizen in America. He said, “The purpose of protecting the life of our Nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people (Great Society, University of Michigan, 1964).” The great black men that have been trying to accomplish this very thing are met with such violent resistance that I wonder if the world really wants what the President said.
It was only twenty days ago when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the march in Selma, Alabama where 700 people, including Dr. King, were arrested in non-violent protest. As a people, we face violence head on, fighting with truth and understanding and, in return, get even more violence for our efforts. It makes me so sad to see all the hate in the world. It almost seems like people have a hatred for understanding more than anything. All they seem to understand is that things have been a certain way and that’s how it should stay, no matter if it is right or just, no matter how unhappy it can make our lives.
I thought about all these things as the day went by, which made work go by really fast. When I got off work I went home to get cleaned up and then met Jamal down at Frank’s Diner for some food. We left there and went straight toward Harlem. It was good to get out of the Bronx for a night. Park Avenue was full of life and energy. There was a definite buzz in the air. It was to be a spectacular night, getting to see a hero of mine in person!
As we reached the Audubon Ballroom, people were standing around the entrance packed shoulder to shoulder. It took over half an hour to get in, but we finally made it inside and found our seats. It was THE moment of my life. My hero appeared on the stage to a thunderous welcome from the audience that went on for several minutes.
He was only a few moments into the speech when it happened. Ironically, he had just made reference to the fact that his house was just broken into about a week ago, and that he would not be bullied into silence, or something to that effect. Well, bullets are unforgiving and very effective at silencing someone. The world lost a good man today.
All he wanted to do was help people. He was killed by his own people. That makes no sense. Some people are so narrow-minded that they cannot even agree that they DO agree. The Nation of Islam is a little on the radical side of politics, but Malcolm shared their desire to create better conditions for black citizens of this country. Just because someone has different ideas about life and humanity than I do doesn’t give me the right to kill them for it.
I guess I learned some valuable lessons today about trust, desire, will, commitment, and association. No matter how noble a person’s intentions, someone will always find a reason to disagree, and even more reasons to fight about it.
© Copyright 2016 Russell French. All rights reserved.