What an honor and a privilege it was for me to speak about the legacy of one of America’s ‘favorite sons’!
I concluded my speech on three dreams or goals of King for America – the importance of obtaining an education; the importance of voting; and the importance of love and racial harmony among the races. I even said if we want to go to that place called heaven – we must love each other. I also said black and white relationships can work. Love and respect for each other are attainable. How do I know? The Lord has blessed me to have wonderful relationships with friends who are white even though we come from different backgrounds, cultures, socio-economic status and religious beliefs.
Then stark reality hit once again. A friend shared this story with me that happened recently (similar to one in another article). Her son (first grader who happens to be black), came home from school very sad. He said, “Momma, (named first grader who happens to be white) said I wasn’t invited to her party because her mom and dad said my skin is brown and I am a _____. I can’t tell you the word, Momma, because it’s what they call black people.” The mom said, “You can tell me the word.” The boy, with tears in eyes, said, “Momma, I can’t.” The Mom heartbreakingly said, “Did she call you a n____? The boy very quickly said, “No!” He fearfully said, “She called me an African–American! I told her I didn’t come from Africa. The little girl said, “It didn’t matter where I came from because her mom and dad said our kind couldn’t come to their house!”
The mother said, “Juanita, these are babies – innocent babies. Why! Why? Why would those words be uttered by a parent to a child that age?” I told her about my mother, Bernice Gambrell, who taught me from a child – the words, “You will love and not hate.” During integration, I was called vicious, disrespectful and hurtful names. The children would not play with me. The boys would stick out their legs and trip me. They would throw spit balls at me every day. Every night, my mom would say, “You will love and not hate.” I would hear Momma praying, “Lord, let the heart of a child come forth.” If the heart of a child comes forth – children would not see color! Imagine if what happened to me is happening to your precious daughter or granddaughter – son or grandson. How would you feel if your child was hated and mistreated because of the color of their skin? I can tell you from experience – it’s not a good feeling.
Even with all the disappointments we have had in attaining one of King’s dreams of racial harmony, today, I still am encouraged. I know there is still work for us to do. However, from my own life, I know that love can work among the races.
Sen. Ted Kennedy said, “The work goes on; the cause endures; the hope still lives; and the dream shall never die.”
It will be up to us to continue the dream. It’s up to us to promote love and unity among the races. It’s up to every black and white person; every leader; every parent; every politician; every teacher; and every preacher to sound the alarm that we must love each other as the Bible said.
If we practice and teach love and not hate – will it make a difference? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at firstname.lastname@example.org.