*originally posted on my old blog on January 18, 2016
My grandmother, aunt, and great-grandfather are somewhere in this ocean of people.
It’s 2016, and we’re all woke and whatnot, but I’ve never publicly explained how significant the Civil Rights Movement is to me. My family has forever instilled this gratitude in me because I know that they fought for me. And for you.
For years, I hated being black. I hated my hair, my skin, my wide nose, and my thick thighs. Up until high school, I went to schools that were 85-90% white. Constantly being surrounded by people that didn’t look like me, didn’t understand my culture, and didn’t have to go through the same things that I had to go through on a daily basis made me feel like everything about me was just wrong. I just never seemed to understand why I didn’t fit in. Then, at family dinners, my aunt and grandma would share their endless stories about interactions with Dr. King and inviting Medgar Evers over for dinner and I rolled my eyes like I didn’t have the most amazing family in the world. Current me hates me for doing this, but then again I hated myself up until I was around 16–but that’s a-whole-nother article.
I took everything for granted growing up. I lived in a nice neighborhood, had parents that supported me in whatever I wanted to pursue, and had everything I needed and pretty much whatever I wanted. I’m incredibly lucky. Up until recently, I never took the time to reflect on what got me here. Without the steps that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took, I wouldn’t have the amazing opportunities that I have today. Without the March on Washington, or the Montgomery Bus Boycott, or numerous sit-ins that MLK started, I wouldn’t be able to go wherever I pleased without question. Without the steps of trailblazers like my very own aunt, Verna Bailey, who was the first black woman to attend the University of Mississippi, I wouldn’t be able to attend the best university in the state of Florida. Without my grandmother, Dr. Shirley Johnson’s, participation in the March on Selma, I wouldn’t be able to live peacefully in a southern city. Without my great grandfather, Samuel Bailey, founding and presiding over the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP, I wouldn’t be a part of one of the greatest organizations in the nation that has provided me with a safe space to be able to talk about the issues that people of color face.
I’m so ashamed that it took me this long to thank those who paved the way for me, but I’m so glad we are taking the time to remember all of the amazing things that Dr. King has done for us. While King’s work significantly improved our conditions, please don’t think that we are done fighting. Systematic oppression, microaggressions, police brutality, and the “black tax” are just a few of the issues that all people of color still face today. So stay informed, stay aware, do your part, and never ever stop fighting.
Happy MLK Day.