As the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday approaches, I am reminded of my days, life and experiences with Dr. King – the Dreamer. Dr. King dreamed of a world with justice and freedom, with no prejudice and no inequality; with no poverty, violence or militarism or racism, but with love for all mankind in a Beloved Community-- a symphony of brotherhood.
I met Dr. King as a young 19 year-old, in 1961, in my home town, Columbus, Ohio. I was a sophomore in college who, because of the efforts of the NAACP and myself, became one of the first two Black people to ever be employed in a bank in Columbus, other than menial work. I had become the President of the Ohio NAACP Youth Council and was in Jet and Crisis magazines. Dr. King came often to Columbus to the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church under the leadership of H. Beecher Hicks, another Black minister, where we had many meetings with us concerning employment and other civil rights issues.
Dr. King’s entourage always included diverse men and women from the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and students from SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) – they were from various nationalities, faiths, ages, sexes, and talents.
I remember so vividly that on one visit, Dr. King said “the time has come for me to ask for help. We must go to Washington and make our concerns known to the world. And I need some organizers from here in Columbus to lead a group from here to Washington.” With that, I quickly volunteered, as did many others from Columbus. At midnight on Tuesday, August 27, 1963, over 240 peaceful civil rights advocates packed 5 buses headed for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC for the famous “March on Washington” (Wednesday, August 28, 1963).
It was an emotional and serious experience. The song “We Shall Overcome” was sung, hummed, shouted, and cried throughout the day; we were from all races, ethnicities, classes, and faiths. We marched and held hands; prayed and sang; cried and laughed; listened and talked. I shall never forget: a conglomerate of diverse leaders and followers committed to give a message and to change.
I made a commitment at that time to henceforth be involved in struggles of civil rights and human rights. And that promise I have kept. As early as 1961, I
- Became the President of both the Columbus and the Ohio State NAACP Youth Councils
- Became an educator
- Arranged trips to Atlanta for my children and others (through the nonprofit group which I founded, Youth-on-the-Move, Inc.) to attend the summer Nonviolent Workshop at the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change. There we learned about the principles of nonviolence and the concept of the “Beloved Community,” and having a "Blue Print" for your life’s goal.
- Encouraged children to recite by heart the “I Have a Dream Speech”
- Encouraged my son, Adetokunbo Adelekan, to attend Morehouse College, the all Black male school which MLK, Jr. attended. There at Morehouse, Tokunbo became a chapel assistant at of the MLK, Jr. International Chapel, and was eventually inducted into the MLK, Jr. Hall of Fame Today he is also a Baptist Minister and author, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Started a movement called “Operation Beloved Telephone Calls” where citizens take time to call or to touch bases with people they had not talked to or seen for a long time, and start building bonds of love and respect – through caring open hearts to build the “Beloved Community.”
- Created programs and activities to teach and reinforce nonviolence
Finally, during MLK, Jr. holiday season, I remember the many Civil Rights leaders and advocates I met: Mahalia Jackson;
Roy Wilkins, John Lewis, James Farmer, Harold Strickland, Mrs. King, Andrew Young, Benjamin Mays, A Phillip Randolph, John Johnson, Malcom X, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Belafonte, Whitney Young, Marion Anderson, Adam Clayton Powell, Lena Horn, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille, and many more. Today, I reflect on the impact all had on the world. And, I ask myself: “What would they say, if they were here today?”
When Louis and Lucille Armstrong came to Columbus in 1992, they took photos of me and another young lady to promote the book A Fight for Freedom, the history of the NAACP written by the noted Black writer, Langston Hughes.
With these memories and the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on, not only my life, but the lives of millions, today, I focus to teach, encourage, inspire and build healthy communities and developments throughout the world with Love, Peace, Freedom, and Justice for all--without racism and separatism.
I strongly feel that 2017 is a year in which all people must walk, talk, and act together for the realization of the MLK, Jr. Dream and Beloved Community. We must
- realistically build United and Blessed Communities throughout the world.
- pursue equal and quality education for all
- remember as Dr. King says that “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically, and
- remember that Intelligence plus character – is the goal of true education.”
- have a "Blue Print" (realistic and practical roadmap and plan) to reach our goals.)
With these Reflections, I come to each person and ask “What are you doing to help create Unity: the DREAM Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Remember: After all, in the words of Dr. King: “Take the first step in faith even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Dr. Patricia Adelekan, lives in Anaheim and is an educator and civil rights leader
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