I am insignificant. I have a voice on the internet but not one that is significant. I’m no Elliott Wilson nor am I Eskay but the things I write about are read. Insignificant people shape the world. Yes Martin Luther King was the face of the civil rights movement but it’s the people that took the water whippings, got arrested and marched that accomplished “racial equality”. These stories need to be told. These stories don’t necessarily need to be put in textbooks but they should be past down like Aesop’s fables. We need to hear the story of the insignificant. I offer an extraordinary story of an insignificant man that is far from an ordinary situation.
For privacy purposes, let us call him Mr. till (research Emmett Till). Mr. Till was 25 when Mr. Luther King Jr. addressed the masses at Lincoln Memorial. (He was in attendance. He told me that the speech was not about desegregation on a society level but of the economic turmoil that encompassed the United States. The original title of the famous speech was “Normalcy, Never Again.”) He was not a little child that periled through segregation unknowingly. He knew that he was looked at as a inferior because of the color of his skin and not the context of his character. Racism to him was not Tom Brady winning the MVP over Michael Vick. He could not sit at a counter or even “check out” white women – a conditioning that plagues him today. He was called nigger in public. He mulls along daily, weekly, and annually with this burden he has to carry. He has seen both sides of the fence.
I asked Mr. Till how he feels about the racial progression in this country. He says that he gets the same looks from white people, sometimes harsher, but they don’t say the same things. The election of Barack fascinated him. It actually made him cry but in terms of race he sees no difference. He is socially capable of mingling with white people but he isn’t able to. It’s not only the barriers that his adolescencent experiences have put on him but the social stigma’s that he still see’s today. I didn’t understand the sentiments nor his point of view. He explained that although they don’t label things “whites” and “coloreds” as black people we know where we can and cannot go. We know what is socially required of us. If race wasn’t important would it be a required field on credit applications? I soon understood.
Although he says racisim is still alive he does see the differences. He acknowledges that me doing what I do wouldn’t be possible in the 60′s. He salutes instituitions like mine for giving young black man like myself an opportunity. He knows the trials he went through no one else will have to endure and that was because of him and his generation. He credits his generation, himself not so much. I credit him. He marched, he sat, he got arrested. He was the back bone of the Civil Right Era. He was part of the brave yet he thinks he was insignificant. His story will never be TIME magazine. 7th & 8th graders won’t hear/read about his story but I do. I was blessed with the ability to meet Mr. Till. My life was effected by an “insignificant soul”.
Do you know a Mr. Till? You don’t know. His story is not told in history books. I went to the library and asked if they had books with similar stories to Mr. Till’s and they directed me to Frederick Douglas’ book and Black Like Me. Black Like Me was written by a white man. Yes, he might have experienced what “being Black” was but that was not his life. I lived in Africa but I could not tell you what it is like to grow up in a hut nor could I do the story justice. So where do I, as a young African American who might not even know I need to hear this story, hear this story? Yep, that is where rap steps in. I do not walk around with the “black glove” in the air nor do I like super conscious rap but this is the “Greatest Story Never Told.” We can change that.
Mr. Till’s story has to be heard by Black America. We do not appreciate what MLK’s miles of walking did for us. We do not fully understand the controversy around the Black Panthers or Malcolm X. Hero’s of the Civil Rights Era were iconic so we may never be able to relate to them. Rap right now is largely a handful of regular young adults talking about their feelings and we understand that. We listen to it, it feeds and molds who we are. Mr. Till’s story is just about a regular guy who persevered through it all. He saw the world change – the world Craig! *Day-Day voice*. Wouldn’t you like to experience that? Rappers wouldn’t you like to bring that to the table of discussion? Wouldn’t it be nice to talk about an “insignificant soul” instead of one that everybody already idolizes? We, as a whole, like the regular guy. When we look in the mirror, that is who we see. I am insignificant, how much Jay-Z in you, you got?
One Response to “Just A Thought”
January 15th, 2011 at 1:02 am
Good read! Everybody [Grandparents/Parents] experienced the civil rights movement differently.Whether it was from a television set in one room apartment in the Bronx or it was civil rights march. Little anecdotes from insignificant souls is our access to the past that shapes an experience.