On last weekend I visited Studio Be , a black owned art studio in New Orleans, LA featuring the works of artist Brandon “B-mike” Odums.
This was truly an impactful art gallery . I was touched personally by so much of it because of its focus on black history and Hurricane Katrina.
This piece specifically brought me back to a powerful experience I had many years ago.
When I was in the 6th grade , Mrs. King passed away. At the time , she and I were both members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Bishop Eddie L. Long was the pastor.
We were told that we could attend the funeral but for security purposes were not allowed to park on the church campus . The church provided busses to transport members to the church from the local Waffle House for the service . We waited for a couple hours for our turn, once it finally came we were told that the busses would no longer be running.
We decided to march to the campus.
As we walked , I remember looking down at my feet , wearing my black Patton leather church shoes with white stockings and holding my moms hand . When I looked up we were turning a corner onto the long road leading to the church . Never had I experienced this road outside of my mother’s car or even witnessed a soul walking down it before. To my right there were white people holding picket signs that had pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King with hateful slurs written on them.
The posters said things such as “they will rot in hell” and even referred to them as the “n” word. The protesters yelled horrible things at us, I squeezed my moms hand so tight. For a moment I felt fear ; fear of the words that were being yelled at us , of the images I saw , and of the long path we were facing.
A man began to sing and some of the others chimed in, I cannot remember the words of the song but what I do remember is the sense of pride I then felt. I held my head high and rolled my shoulders back. In that moment I felt pride in my “blackness”.
I marched to my church home.
I marched to the funeral of Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the wife of our civil rights leader.
I marched to a room that held 3 former presidents, the sitting president , President George W Bush, and the first black president of our nation who was Senator Barack Obama at the time.
We marched passed the hate into the arms of greatness.
We were able to honor the legacy of the woman beside the man.
That is what the civil rights movement was. That is what black history is. That is why this month is so meaningful to me. It is the only time that our greatness is recognized , that the “blackness” I learned to take such pride in is even celebrated or taught in my country. We should be taught of these beautiful moments each and every day.
Celebrate beyond the 28th.