yes, I’m trying to write like this!
On this day 50 years ago, one of the greatest leaders this world has every known, delivered his last speech. Remembering the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today.
Here is a snippet of his last speech, “I Have Been To The Mountaintop”:
I don’t know that I was made to stand poised
in the storms eye like
Myrlie Evers or Coretta King or Cherry Turner or Betty Shabazz or Winnie Mandela or Mamie Till.
I don’t know if I’m made of the same
language in prayers and cloth to covet.
I can’t decipher the whispers from the flames
or control the fahrenheit of the metal
without getting hot tempered and sour /
not quite like they could.
But I am from the same dish. The same dirt. The same pot stirrers.
I am standing on shoulders strong.
– for Winnie Mandela
She was a close friend of one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated contraltos, Marian Anderson, and renowned educator, Mary McCloud Bethune; an admirer of Booker T. Washington; and once wrote about going to hear Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie and how disappointed she was when her children didn’t know where Ethiopia was on a world map. Sadly, not much has changed 75 years later. Civil rights activist and gifted seamstress, Gladys Hedgpeth’s story is one of courage, faith, and simply being aware things just weren’t fair when it came to equality in the quality of life . . . academic opportunities; career visions realized; and cultural exposure. Against all odds, the self-educated, ‘very pretty’, brave and defiant mother of 9 helped bring a school board to its knees.
In 1943, Trenton, New Jersey wasn’t much different for ‘people of color’ than small towns in the South. Daily racial oppression was just not as blatant, but most ‘Negroes’ were still confined to segregated facilities; venues; and prospects. Although having to endure the sole responsibility of being a divorced single mother, a small portion of Gladys Hedgpeth’s days were still spent lugging a big, black pocketbook loaded down with NAACP membership envelopes. It wasn’t easy convincing folks to join the so needed historic organization (founded in 1909) when that same dollar could buy two loaves of bread. The crusader knew she had no choice but to try.
When Junior High School No. 2 was built, Gladys and other parents on the block thought their children wouldn’t have to travel to far away Lincoln. That was definitely not the case. Ten years before the decision of Brown vs. the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education (the Supreme Court’s decision on public school desegregation), the protestor and her neighbor, Berline Williams filed a lawsuit against the Trenton Board of Education. They were represented by an NAACP attorney, Robert Queen.
Soon more than 200 black school children had transferred from Lincoln to other city junior high schools. In 1946, Lincoln began enrolling white children making its principal Patton J. Hill, one of the first black men in the U.S. to head an integrated secondary school. The case was cited by Thurgood Marshall in his arguments in the 1954 Supreme Court case.
(February, 1944) New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Newton Porter announced the Court’s decision . . . “It’s unlawful for Boards of Education to exclude children from any public school on the ground that they are of the Negro race, and a school board has no legal right to refuse Negro children admission in the school nearest their residence and compel them to attend another school where colored children are segregated from other children.
Celebration and honor! In 1993, Junior High School No. 2 was renamed the Hedgpeth/Williams Middle School.
Resource: Spring, 2005 – American Legacy Magazine
Kansas City native, Jetta Dya Jones is a retired educator, motivational speaker, and freelance writer. Her debut inspirational book, Ba’al Perazim: The Breakthrough, will be released early summer (Life Chronicles Publishing)
I read an article the other day about a high school girl who refused to stand for the “Pledge of Allegiance.” I saw myself in her. I did the same thing when I was in eighth grade. At the time, Los Angeles felt post-apocalyptic. We were only a few years removed from the Latasha Harlins case and the LA Riots. My Black and Brown friends were being assaulted and handcuffed for no reason, murdered with impunity and many fell prey to mandatory minimums. I watched as children of immigrants jumped from the second-story windows of my junior high school to protest threats of deportation from a country that was stolen from their ancestors. I walked past homeless people begging to be seen as humans. Gay friends could not walk hand-in-hand. So I could not understand how I could be asked to pledge allegiance when I knew “with liberty and justice for all” was bullshit. It still is.
The young protester was expelled from school. She filed a lawsuit, determined to hold the Constitution to its promise. I hope she wins; but I’m a cynic. Even if she wins in court, she’s fighting to be readmitted to complete an inadequate education. S.T.E.M. classes are undervalued. Books are being removed from English and history classes for being too offensive. All that’s left are watered down texts perpetrated as knowledge. They won’t tell our kids the truth. If they did, the system could not train them to be new slaves.
I want to write this young woman a note of encouragement. I want to tell her not standing means something; but I can’t. Just as my mother couldn’t tell me.
I love my country. She taught me “God Bless America” in elementary. I sang with sincerity and my hand over my heart, but that was before I learned the history America wants to forget. She doesn’t want to talk about the European men who raped, murdered, robbed, and left her in bloody pieces. She tries to distract me with patriotism, but she can’t hide the truth. This is not the “give me your tired, your poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free” America. I have hope for that America. I’m willing to fight for that America. The truth is that version of our country is still just an idea written on old paper. It is the truth America fears the young protester already knows.
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When she was a girl in those days
Her Mama bought a piece of mosaic fabric
Weaved salvaged edges into historical truth
I heard her say
You could buy a piece of mosaic fabric
For ten cent a yard
She resounded with clarity
Through her veil of trimmed notions
For ten cent a yard
Inspiration was sewn into our lineage
Preserving amid the crow of notions
Her Mama made sack dresses from lack
Stitched threads that spurred our lineage
To crease hems in place of mediocrity
Sack clothing was made with praising hands
Because Southern crops impaled the boll of grasps
She turned to hymns instead of idle hands
And waved them like her Mama’s kinfolk
Who toiled fields that impaled their grasps
But their unbreakable spirit was their balm
Her Mama was as immovable as her kinfolk
She was vigilant and strong and learned
How to wear unbreakable spirit like a balm
That worked narratives into folded seams
She trained her daughters to be watchful; to study
How to buy yards of the mosaic fabric
And line their narratives into the upright seams
We weave our salvaged edges with tangible truth
We all have moments where we get caught up dealing with life’s chaos and whatever struggles we’re facing, and we have a hard time filtering out all the negative crap that likes to build up and overwhelm us. That’s when it’s crucial that we are careful about the kind of “Self-Talks” we have because if we’re not careful, those little talks can too easily be consumed with an unhealthy amount of pessimism and bitterness that tends to accompany us in times of stress and worry.
When times are hard, they can often be blessings in disguise- so you must let go and allow life to strengthen and guide you, because no matter how it much it may hurt, you need to hold your head up and keep it moving- remember this when you’re having a rough day, a bad month, or a crappy year- just know that things will change and you will not feel this way forever.
We gotta keep in mind that we are in control of our attitude and our way of looking at things, and it doesn’t take much sometimes to let our thoughts overwhelm us and then our heads are filled with, “I’ll never get this finished.” “I can’t.” “What else can go wrong?” “I have too much on my plate, I can’t deal with it anymore.”
That’s when you gotta manage those self-defeating thoughts and acknowledge that to attract positivity, you gotta start by giving off positive energy. Stop focusing solely on what’s going wrong and what can’t be done, and put more energy into doing whatever is in your power to better your situation.
Try shifting your perspective, Take a deep breath. Take a walk. Move to another room. Sometimes working from a different location can bring a different perspective and some much-needed clarity. To keep your sanity and stay mentally sane, sometimes you just need to change your point of view and tell the negative committee that likes to meet up inside your mind to be quiet.
Dawn Edwards wrote her first short story at the age of 8 and has cultivated a deeper love for the written word over the years. She is now a published author, her book is entitled, “Food 4 Thought” and currently has two book projects in the works. She’s a blogger and a political activist who wholly believes that she has the responsibility to use her words, in addition to her legal knowledge and political science background to uplift, motivate and address issues that affect her community. Dawn’s also a mother of 3 boys, and a trained dancer.