A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the most widely known spokesperson for black working-class interests in the United States, met with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration to demand he sign an executive order banning discrimination against black workers in the defense industry. Randolph threatened to bring tens of thousands of marchers to Washington, D.C. On June 25, 1941, days before the march was to occur, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which barred government agencies and federal contractors from refusing employment in industries engaged in defense production on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin. It was the first Presidential decree issued on race since Reconstruction. The order required the armed services, including the Marine Corps, to recruit and enlist African Americans.
I realize now there is no DNA test that can tell me what line of African Kings I descended from. I wish I could say I came from Kush and my ancestors bathed in the confluence of the Blue and White Nile, but it ain’t going to happen and in the cosmic scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. I’ve come to realize the most important thing I am is what I was yesterday and my firsts may come tomorrow. You cannot take that away from me.
I may or may not be a third generation something or other, but I am great in my eyes. I hope others see what I aspire to. I hope my head and heart see it that way, maybe you will too. I don’t assume to be perfect or even always good but I am the first and only me. I proclaim I am HUMAN as imperfect as that might be. I demand Human Rights, not civil rights, those meager things you give based on class and privilege, but the fundamental things that come with drawing breath. I realize those things are not universal or absolute but in this time and in this place I stand and say I AM A MAN and nothing you say or do not say will make that mutable.
So keep your history. I don’t need it. I will make history as I go. I don’t need accolades or letters after my name. I need not someone to mark my passing or carry on my name. Simply being me, I have planted a banner that will eventually tatter and fall, but it will have stood for me and I will have stood for something.
Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Black history should be annotated as Pre and Post Martin Luther King Jr. Before MLK, we were Colored, Negro and often boys, girls apes, coons, baboons, jigaboos and n****rs and lynched, murdered and bombed. After MLK we slowly became African American. I, personally, am Black. I resist being African American because it still looks, feels and quacks like 3/5 American. But since MLK was able to get race on a “Visible National Stage” we have continued to evolve, to become more human albeit not more likable until recently.
The 60’s were an incredible time. There is significance in it being 100 years after the Civil War. What should have been peace and prosperity was cold war, McCarthyism, Korea, Viet Nam, J. Edger Hoover and chickens coming home to roost. In the midst of it all Martin Luther King Jr. stood for Civil Rights which really should be read “HUMAN RIGHTS”. MLK starts with dignity for the formerly enslaved but soon encompasses the poor, the downtrodden and the immigrants identified on the Statue of Liberty.
Nobody likes a reformer but everyone appreciates one when reform is proved. We have yet to perfect it. Today’s headlines are filled with Civil Rights or do you believe sexual harassment is about something else. It’s the other side of the same problem. Someone out there with money, power and influence doesn’t value you for who you are or takes advantage of the status they impose upon you. So, it has taken 50 years to get sexual lynching and reverse castration out in the open. It is one step closer to Civil Rights/Human Rights in America. I continue and will always applaud Martin Luther King Jr. for getting the conversation and movement unstuck and started in my lifetime.