We were best friends up until that day. I was always the type that had a best friend. Going to each others houses after school, talking on the telephone in the kitchen if we were able to get home before our younger sisters arrived…before our parents got home from work. Together we watched TV in my kitchen, usually with a snack my mom had prepared the night before. We were trusted ‘Junior High’ girls, interested…but not too interested in the opposite sex…still content to just be together after the frantic pace of school.
Our world was changing around us, but we were insulated by parents that loved us and our teachers that really understood the pre-puberty angst that many of us had started traveling through. My social studies teacher was extremely interested in social justice issues- he taught us how to ‘discuss’ issues in a square arrangement around the room. Today we call it ‘Socratic discussions’. Mr. H. was young, energetic and he wanted us to start trusting our belief system and even our political views.
On April 4, 1968, we were at my house eating chocolate, fudge brownies surrounded by creamy white ice cream. Sitting in front of the fourteen inch TV in my kitchen, a news reel came across the screen. It read….Martin Luther King Jr. had just been killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis Tennessee.
I was speechless. Sandy smiled and said, “good, another one is dead”.
I looked down into my white ice cream now puddled over the chocolate brownie and still said nothing.
An aside: as I’m writing this all these years later I regret not saying anything back to my friend, in fact right now I tear up as I write. In another couple of years I did become braver. My teacher, Mr. H. had planted the seed,where I was, even in my self-centered little life. I have told this story often…to my own children and to my own classes through the years. Bigotry is scary…let us continue the fight for racial justice in our country.