Fifty years ago, in 1963, I had an experience that made an indelible mark on my psyche. At the tender age of six, you might think that the most impressionable thing in my life might have been the beginning of elementary school at P.S. 45 Queens, but for me it was any event that I had the opportunity to share with my now deceased father. I am fuzzy about the events surrounding my dad taking me to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, so much so that it wasn't until this week, when I found myself standing in what I know and have always envisioned as the very same place I stood in '63. Then in 1963, it was to be inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King to think of myself as more than Black, but as a human being that is worthy of giving and receiving love, and the dignity of freedom. Going back this week to "commemorate" that great day was, on its surface, a way to represent the indignation of my family, community, ancestors, and I; that 50 years later we are still fighting the same battles for Jobs and Freedom. On a deeper level, I emotionally celebrate the cherished memory of sharing one of the most historically important days the world has known with the man I loved and who brought me into this world; my father, Leroy L. Smith.
How could I possibly have known what would happen in our lives and in the world? Dr. King and my dad have been gone a long time. I have healed from the drug addiction that my father tried to help me solve until his dying day. I have been diagnosed with, and damn near died from, and now live more fruitfully with AIDS. Still, with four children and six grandchildren, fifty years later here in America we are still fighting for jobs, justice, healthcare and freedom. I am happy that the pain we are experiencing is motivation for so many to raise the energy of love on the planet, even for a moment. It takes a moment to start the momentum. I'm glad to be alive and present for both of the marches. There are not many that can say the same, not the least of these being Dr. King and my dad.
When I stood on the same spot that I shared with my father half a century ago, this time listening to the impassioned speeches of Martin L. King III and Rev. Al Sharpton, I realized the energy of that day in '63 could never be reproduced. Their words rang true, but they, nor anyone, could match the eloquence and soaring oratory of Dr. King. Even at the age of 6, I remember being impressed by Dr. King's mastery of the English language. He seemed to be our energetic spiritual bridge to the next dimension. The gateway of pure light he channeled for us that day in 1963, in the particular shade of love that we (over 250 thousand) people received it; seems un-reproducible. How could I possibly appreciate the magnitude of the moment? What I was able to experience again (to my surprise) was the love and hope of my father, and his desire for a better life for my sister and I. I also had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the lives of those two men, (and many others) who gave their lives in order to better the lives of their children.
No one really knew at the time how prolific a speech, or a day that would turn out to be in 1963. Dr. King had to die in order to garner sainthood. He had already been a "King" among men. I did not know how special a father and son experience it was then, but I do now. My dad had to leave this land in order to be king too. Sometimes those closest to you do not appreciate you until you are gone, or until those outside your circle do.
Who really knows what the tangible results of this years March on Washington will be. When I was asked by MSNBC's news anchor, Craig Melvyn in an on air interview, if I had been to both marches in 1963 and 2013, all I could think about was what I could say in what I knew would be 15 seconds or less, that could help change the world for my children and grandchildren. I wanted to hopefully add to what has to continue to become a critical mass of energy needed to shift the paradigm again, like it did in '63. I'm so tired of fighting this battle, so I pray to be a channel for change. It is hard to express 50 years of frustration in fifteen seconds, but I believe if we could all touch just one or two with the passion of our purpose, oppression will take another standing eight count like it did fifty years ago. I will do what Rev. Joseph Lowery exhorted us to do; "commemorate and instigate" so my grandchildren will not have to still fight for jobs, freedom and dignity - 5, 15 or even 50 years from now. It is time to DO SOMETHING with the motivation of this fierce urgency of now.