Our InterPlay troupe participated in several Martin Luther King celebrations this past weekend, which got me thinking about what my kids used to call, “the olden days.” I remembered the time I almost got to meet Dr. King in person.
Dr. King was scheduled to speak at a Black church in Detroit, Michigan, where my then husband was a news broadcaster. As a member of the press he was invited to attend the event as a special guest and I came along as his wife. The church was crowded with people, and the excitement in the air was palatable. We were immediately ushered to the front and given seats on the stage. As I turned around to survey the audience, I realized we were a couple of only a few white people in attendance. I remember this surprising me at the time, because Dr. King was a well known public figure, and I for one had considered this evening a wonderful opportunity to see and hear him in the flesh.
After some preliminary introductions, the MC of the event made an announcement. “Unfortunately I have some sad news this evening. Dr King will not be able to speak to us this evening. He has been arrested and is in jail.” There was a hush and then a great commotion in the audience as people came to realize the realities of this situation.
The speaker continued, “But we are fortunate to have Dr. King’s father, the Rev. Martin Luther King senior as our speaker this evening.” I don’t remember the words he spoke, but I can still see his small frame at the podium, the worry and concern for his son on his face. As I told the kids at the MLK celebration at the Kelly-Strayhorn yesterday, the whole audience joined Martin’s father in his concern for his son, because at the time, none of us knew how things were going to turn out.
And now that we do know how it turned out, my compassion for his father reaches even deeper and broader. Martin Jr. has said, “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice.” I’m grateful to have lived long enough to experience that bend.