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Remember why we celebrate MLK Day

When I think about Martin Luther King’s holiday, my reflection goes back to when my siblings and I attended school in the late 60s and early 70s.

Before King was given a day of celebration, my parents would not allow us to attend school on King’s birthday. Although they were adamant toward our attending school and getting an education, MLK day was a “skip school day” in our house.

On that day, my parents would explain the purpose and encouraged us to keep the tradition alive by acknowledging the occasion. Although I liked attending school, I didn’t mind staying at home because I knew the values and principles that my parents were teaching and instilling in our lives were good ones.

My dad’s favorite quote was “it’s the principle of the matter.”

He knew that Dr. King was a fair and just man and that his fight was a peaceable fight geared toward justice, justice for all. My dad knew that for years people of color had been denied what the Declaration of Independence had proclaimed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator (God) with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

He knew that although the Declaration of Independence had these words inscribed in ink on paper years before he and King were born, that it was not so, especially for people of color. He knew that if he would walk the marches and attend the meetings, there would be a chance that he would not have a job and it was critical for him not to jeopardize his livelihood having seven children and a wife to feed.

So his not letting us go to school that day was a sacrifice for the cause (justice for all) and a small thing the he could contribute without causing conflict living in a small town in Mississippi. It was his way of showing that he believed in Dr. King’s philosophy. And on that day when we stayed home from school, we knew the importance of the activities that Dr. King had engaged in which to reserve a ticket for people of color who had been denied certain rights and happiness.

Because of Dr. King’s sacrifice, we now have a ticket to tomorrow’s future of having a chance to the “good life.”

Being a teenager, dad did not have to explain much to me because I had seen firsthand of what was going on. I had also seen on TV some of the mishaps and confusion that blacks endured if they “did the wrong thing or broke a law.”

I also read a lot of books that revealed mistreatment of people of color. Not only that, I drank from fountains that said “colored only” and went to doctor offices and health facilities that were run down on the side where blacks had to enter into a separate waiting room that had run down or hand me down furniture. So I knew what my dad was talking about.

And for that reason, and until they made it a legal holiday, there were some days my children did not attend school until King’s birthday was first observed in 1986. Even if it was not a legal holiday, I would still follow my dad’s tradition. Why, because I believe in equality and justice for all.

And I believe in making sacrifices toward anything that is for good. The dreamer has passed on, but his sacrifices and hard work have paved the way for people of color to have a chance at being, doing and becoming whomever they chooses to become in life. They say that the stars are the limit; but I say even after you reach the stars, keep going.

Remember and remind your children of what the day they are allowed to “skip school in January” represents. And more importantly always remember there is no bond in serving a living God and that lets me know that I’m free, free at last.

Beverly Gibson is a Ferriday resident.

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