As I was trying to decide what to write about to start off our month long "Walking The Dream" conversation, I had a hard time deciding on exactly where to start.
Dr. King was a man of great measure; a walking hero. I knew off top that there were certain things I’d be addressing, like his infamous Letter From a Birmingham Jail and how fresh the brother’s suits were! But where to start is where I got stuck. Then it hit me!
Start where Martin Luther King started: Boyhood. Black boyhood. Black boyhood in America.
All over the nation, school districts, churches, university academics, and theorist are conversing over what has been coined the "State of Emergency of Black Boys." The fallout being rooted in the disparity in health, incarceration, education, police brutality, and all out evident not-giva-damn-ness this country holds for young Black boys.
I think of Dr. King before he was Dr. or even Martin Luther King. Undoubtedly he ran around yards and fidgeted in classroom desks like all little boys do and was called Martin or a black folk nickname by those closest to him. Brother Martin was born in 1929 (the year that the Great Depression began), which means the entire backdrop of his childhood was the Great Depression. The Great Depression of course refers to the 12 year aftermath of the stock market crashing and banks turning upside down in America. We call it an American tragedy but the key benefactors of that market before it crashed and was booming were a fragment of America’s population that surely didn’t include Black people. So all the fallout and newspaper pandering of the Great Depression was not something that included the scope of Blacks in America. Factually, there had been a great(er) depression for Black people in this country long before 1929 that no one seemed inspired enough to address and surely caused no media frenzy. The white men, now penniless from the stock market crash, previously never looked out the windows from their factory jobs where they were steadily employed onto the sight of poor Blacks in the streets and walked out the doors in droves to rally for the dignity of the deserving Black man and woman. Only when they experienced what was a fraction of our plight was it a call for outrage.
There’s a saying so dipped in Black love sauce it’s hard to know who the credit for its creation should go to, but it’s brilliantly accurate:
"When White people have a cold in America, Black people have pneumonia!"
So when the Stock Market Crash of 1929 hit White America was rocked with sudden pneumonia. If a White cold is Black pneumonia, then you know what White pneumonia is… Black death. The White American Great Depression waged a different war on us. It threatened and gave the feeling of the Black American Great Demise. Imagine being a sharecropper in the rural south when the American economy was booming. Then, things got depressing…
So there our brother was, our little Martin. He sat and grew smiling like we do and always will- through it all. His eyes and ears absorbing the soundtrack of Baptist churches, Black family life, and a Georgia plain just one foot out of slavery.
This little brother rose to power through rising to the occasion. He saw the world around him, the stark unfairness, and in the age of the Black flinch, when we more over not even do as much as look a White man in the eye, this little boy became the man who not only looked in eye, but stared down the entire state of White superiority.
Every teacher, principal, superintendent of school, and state legislator can stand up on behalf of Black boys and declare a State of Emergency. However, nothing will move until BLACK BOYS look through their eyes as Martin did, and when they see sadly many of the same things Martin’s eyes landed on 80 years ago, rise to the occasion.
Walking the Dream.
Ise Lyfe is a Hip-Hop Spoken Word Artist, Author,
and Founder of the Creative Force Foundation