Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2017

Today is a bitter-sweet day for me. It’s a sweet day because MLK Jr. is one of my heroes…someone I look up to. He challenged the status quo, and made a change that influenced a generation.

As for the bitter, I could go on about the continued slavery through mass incarceration, but I will be writing a more personal story.

Warning: this story is sad and traumatic. Please read with a compassionate and open mind.

It was early morning in the mid-90s. My whole family had the day off work/school, so we were going to do something fun. Dad was gone in the early morning, so we just hung out around the house.

Around 9am or so, Dad came home. He came in,

“Everyone in the living room. Now, please.”

We all met in the living room.

“Look, there is no easy way to break this. Leslie is dead.”

We all just sat there, not sure how to react. Leslie was a close family friend and a babysitter/caretaker. I was the oldest, somewhere around the age of 10.

“She was shot. From what we are told, she passed away quickly.”

We still didn’t know how to process this information. To an extent, the motions of life continued on as normal until the funeral. That’s when the finality of it all started to hit me, though I wonder if my brother and sister could understand.

Not that it’s important, but she was shot by a jealous ex-boyfriend, and he was African American. There have been times where I have wondered if he knew it was MLK Jr. day, or if that fact simply escaped him. It would give me a “reason” to be racist, but my close friends can attest that I am not.

Racism is evil.

That’s what MLK believed, and that’s what I believe. So, today, don’t morn the man and forget why he died. Don’t be a coward like so many. Be brave like MLK and Rosa Parks. Stand up for what’s right, even if it lands you on the wrong side of the law. That’s when it counts the most. It’s easy to do the right thing when it costs nothing. Do the right thing when it costs you everything.

Life is too short to let it pass us by.

MLK eventually took a bullet to the brain for what he believed in.

“Nobody wants to be a hero, it just sometimes turns out that way.” — Black Hawk Down

Remember that on days like today. He had a dream. It cost him everything.

Remember Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wagen, over and out.