NancyOnNorwalk contacted some members of Norwalk’s African-American community for their thoughts on how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message might apply today, especially in Norwalk. We had planned to write our own story. But Board of Education member Sherelle Harris, the assistant director of the Norwalk Public Library System, responded with the following, and we felt it did not need our words getting in the way.
By Sherelle Harris
NORWALK, Conn. – I can give you the politically correct answer filled with the banality of buzz words, honest deceptions and the touting of semblances? My thoughts on this subject run very deeply and I could never do them justice without taking over your piece! lol. I can also speak the truth as I see it; however, like Rafiki, the shaman and friend to Mufasa and Simba in the Lion King, I know it is best to speak when “it is time.”
I recommend the movie “Betty & Coretta.”
You had better believe that behind the Dr. King’s, the El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz’s, the Thurgood Marshall’s — the unequivocal men — there was a woman of utmost patience, dignity and strength, women who knew their worth, but knew how to bow to a particularly purposed man, knowing the faults, but loving through all the lynchings from the world.
If Dr. King was alive, I would ask him what has torn at the fabric of family in our community.
I would also recommend Eugene Robinson’s “Disintegration.” It answered many of the questions I, a first-generation direct recipient of Dr. King’s dream, had about Blacks not being of one accord anymore. If Dr. King was alive I would ask his take on the opposing strategies/philosophies of Marcus Garvey (Black Nationalism, Back to Africa Movement), W.E.B. Du Bois (Talented Tenth, NAACP) and Booker T. Washington (Atlanta Compromise, Tuskegee Institute), and if they were similar to differences between him and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, who later came to understand each other.
I was pleased to learn that a few years ago Simsbury High School students had researched Dr. King’s time there working in the tobacco fields the summers of 1944 and 1947 and had embarked on a project to raise money to erect a permanent memorial for Dr. King in their community. Dr. King, coming from a state with laws that protected racism and segregation, was impressed with Connecticut because he could eat and sit anywhere he wanted in the Nutmeg State.
If he was alive I would ask him what he thinks of one of the wealthiest states in our country having the highest achievement gap. I would ask him if the Civil Rights movement ever came to Connecticut. I would ask him about classism vs. racism. I would ask him about covert polarization and the politicization of everything. I would ask how Black apathy occurs. If Dr. King was alive I would pick his brain and pick his brain and pick his brain about the 1980’s.
If Dr. King was alive I would ask, “How do we get the right people in the right positions to sincerely care for and give all of our children the opportunity to be productive members of society?”
I would ask his take on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. I just read the article, “Are Our Children Being Sold to the Highest Bidder?” by Kim Courville Williams, M.Ed, an educational consultant and 25-year educator who wrote, “We have allowed too many people with very little experience in education but with deep pockets to become a part of the decision-making process in public education.” I would ask Dr. King if education is the new Civil War.
I would ask where do we go from here and, most importantly, how does one maintain the strength to love.
Sherelle Harris wrote an opinion piece for NancyOnNorwalk last year as well. You can find that by clicking here.