As I get older, I am beginning to notice that pictures like this affect me differently. As a young boy, I remember looking up to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X with wide eyes of admiration and reverence. They were on pedestals so high, they appeared to me as giants. I read their speeches and I read their books. I watched black and white documentaries about their lives. I hung posters with their images and wore t-shirts with their quotes. I internalized their messages and merged them with my own.
In this, my 38th year of living, I realize I am just one year away from the age they were when they were assassinated. They don’t look like giants to me anymore. They look like regular guys who not only had something to say about the plight of their people, but loved to eat good food and laugh with their friends. They look like young men who had families waiting for them at home with to-do lists on their desks and dates circled on their calendars and ideas for sermons and speeches on note pads in their pockets. They look like me; They look like my friends.
Headed into my 39th time around the sun this year, I can plainly see the youth in their eyes and hear the youth in their voices. I hear some trepidation about the future coupled with hope that what they are doing will matter in the long run… whether their choice to sacrifice their personal lives with their wives and children for the greater good of humanity generally and Black Americans particularly would make a difference 50 some odd years later.
Time flies. And as I contemplate on my thoughts 50 some odd years after my historic heroes have lived and died, I am not seeking answers to the question of whether their sacrifices mattered. Instead, I find myself asking questions to the man in the mirror—who I also find myself looking at differently these days. I will end this post by sharing with you a few of the questions I asked him when I saw him last:
What happened to your fire?
What happened to your fight?
What happened to your passion?
What are you doing with your life?
For whom are you standing or speaking?
What societal ill makes you cry?
Where is your battle? What cause will you champion?
For what are you willing to die?
What I Know for Sure: “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer to any of these questions. Not at this age. Not in these times. Not for me at least. And though I may not know you, I venture to speak for you and say it isn’t acceptable for you either.