Today, we celebrate Martin Luther King day. Where do I begin to write a post about this? First, I need to let you know that I grew up in the deep south as a son of a Lutheran Pastor. My formative years were the early sixties and during this time I lived all over Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina. Racism was alive and well in the little towns I grew up in. I can remember marching with MLK in Foley Alabama and the "good ole boys" throwing things at us and calling us names. The fact that we were white made their hatred towards us even worse. We were traitors and N……. lovers. I think I was 8 or 9 years old at the time. I couldn't understand what we were doing "wrong". It was just a parade.
I remember living in Saluda S.C. and going to the movie house on the weekends. It always struck me as strange that the "blackies" had to sit in the balcony. They wouldn't even let "them" in the theater until all us white folks were already in and seated. I can remember looking up and waving at my friend J.B. J.B. lived not to far from me and we use to play football and stuff together. J.B. wasn't his name but it was what we called him. It stood for Jet Black. He didn't seem to mind and I thought he liked it. I now know, he probably didn't. I know it used to bother him when we would stop at the store after playing ball and they wouldn't let him in. I would have to go get his Mountain Dew and peanuts for him. But we were just kids. We didn't care, we just wanted to play and have fun. J.B. and his sister, Rosa Lee, were the only blacks in my school. Rosa was a big girl. Very quiet and very smart. She always sat in the back of the class by herself and I would make an effort to be nice to her. I liked her. I think she was afraid to talk to me though because she would never say anything. Just minded her own business. I've never forgotten about Rosa Lee and wonder what became of her and J.B.
Our schools were integrated before my sixth year started. I remember it being a really big deal for the adults. The kids didn't really seem to care. We all played football together and had a lot of fun. Of course we had to get on separate buses on the way home. Maybe it was just because we lived on the opposite sides of the tracks. I'm not sure.
I also remember coming out of Church, one Sunday morning, when I was about 11 or 12, and there were Church members passing out flyers. They were really dedicated and made sure everyone got one. They were flyers for the KKK rally that was taking place out in the fields that night. I guess we had quite a few clansman in our Church. Even at 12 years old this disturbed me quite a bit. My friends and I snuck out that night and headed out to this rally. When you are 12, curiosity over comes you, and some things you just have to do. I remember the five of us crawling through the woods following the lights until we came to the edge of a field. It was very scary. The field was full of people in white robes and hoods and they were singing "Onward Christian Soldiers" and other songs we sang on Sunday and they had 3 crosses a blaze. The lights we followed were these crosses being burned. We laid there listening and watching for about 10 minutes or so and then we glanced up at each other, stood up and ran. We ran and ran and ran. We never talked about that night again. I've always wondered if crosses were the only thing being burned that night. I doubt it.
When I turned 16 I quit going to Church. I stayed away from the Church for 30 years. Now as I go to the Methodists Church on Sunday, where we have five black members out of about 300, I realize, it's not the Church, it's the people that are evil. In the town where we now live, Dundee, Fl population 4,000, we still have a "blackie" town. Racism, is very much alive and well, in our town and through out the world. Will it ever change? I don't know. But I can pray that it does. I can respect people, for who they are, not what color they are. I can correct people when they start making racist remarks. I can choose not to associate with racists. Racism makes my stomach churn.
So what does any of this have to do with Real Estate? Everything my friends. Everything. Because of MLW we now have the "Civil Rights Act of 1964" and the "Voting Rights Act of 1965". Because of MLK, the healing has begun. We have a very long way to go but the journey has started.
MLK was a man of peace. He was non-violent and proved that it doesn't take force to win a battle. MLK was a hero. His speech "I have a dream" is a masterpiece and regarded as one of the finest speeches in American oratory.
So there you have it folks, my meager attempt at honoring a great man, through my experiences, seen through the eyes of a child. Take a few minutes tomorrow and say a prayer for our Country and my heroes Martin Luther King, J.B. and Rosa Lee.
Martin Luther King, rest in peace my brother.
***The picture is from a school contest and is: First Prize co-winner, Rachel Waychunas, grade 5, Sayen Elementary School, Hamilton Ma.