In trying to find the right words for me to properly articulate the poignancy of Barack Obama being the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of The United States – the first person of African heritage to do so in the history of so called “Western” civilization – I had a moment of serendipitous fortune when I came across my senior project from college. It was an examination of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, juxtaposed with the autobiography (as told to Alex Haley) the film was based upon. A shoutout goes to Professor Gallagher at Lehigh and his great class, ‘Reel American History’ (linked in the blogroll on the right). My project can be found here at:http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eineng/jace/jace-title.html
In one of the more memorable scenes from the film, the camera follows Malcolm en route to Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on that fateful day in February of 1965, as Sam Cooke’s amazing opus, A Change Is Gonna Come, plays in its entirety. I was reminded how this song is so moving and has such significance, especially in light of today marking 40 years since Robert F. Kennedy had his life taken. Cooke himself lost his life to violence in 1964. He was only 33, and did not live long enough to see A Change Is Gonna Come released, and later go on to be considered one of the greatest songs ever written.
Another moment of pure serendipity will come on August 28th of this year, the 45th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, when Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Denver, Colorado. In many ways, so much of Dr. King’s vision will be realized at that moment, regardless of what happens in November.
In the dark days of the 1960s, when it appeared that the forces of evil and intolerance would prevail, and the great leaders of the day were being cut down before our eyes, the seeds of a brighter and better America were sown. And in the following four decades, while it appeared that the progress was too slow, or that racism in America was simply lurking invisible in our institutions, a whole new generation of Americans gave birth to another, a generation that values other people not based on the color of their skin, but on the quality of their soul. Bigotry and ignorance of course still live; but the signs that their coming death is imminent are everywhere. Young people, progressives, and minority voters are energized like never before, and their will to realize the great promise of America has manifested itself into the largest and most effective grassroots political organization this country has ever witnessed. And meanwhile, those who ignorantly adhere to a biased and intolerant vision of our society are being increasingly marginalized and put in their proper place – often by their own children and grandchildren. Yes, our generation is absolutely the most colorblind of any before it, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our parents for that.
The struggle is far from over; but it is definitely appropriate to pause and savor this moment, and realize that the future is always bright and that night is darkest before the dawn. Men like Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and many like them, gave their lives in the struggle to make America a better nation. They died not knowing whether or not such a sacrifice would bear fruit. Sam Cooke sang:
“There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.”
Somewhere, Sam, Bobby, Malcolm, and Dr. King are together, smiling.