• HeatherJoy Bagnall

MLK Obligatory Quote Day 2020

The 'Yeah We Celebrate a Black Guy' Day

Dear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

Happy Birthday, Sir. With all due respect, I will not post your quotes today.

As a child, I learned my parents were in Memphis that fateful day to Dr. King was murdered. It was their honeymoon, they were farmers making a quick trip to Tennessee.

I did not grow up in a rainbow world full of beautiful cultures to celebrate. I continue to learn of this world, I love it, and want everyone to know about it. My world was a whitewashed farm town in way upstate New York. That evil triple letter club had burnt their hate where my momma could see the flames and smell the smoke while she was pregnant for me. Surprise! Hate and discrimination were not relegated to the south of the Mason-Dixon line. Knowing there were very few people of color around, she did her best to bring them into our world via books and the like she did everything else, creating. So we had dolls and we learned symbolically that skin and hair were shade and the stuffing was the same. It was before political correctness and the internet and she did her best to understand and teach us to keep loving when the world was telling us otherwise. She told me one day, “We were raised that they were coloreds. It is wrong, but I don’t have anyone to ask, I don’t know the answer, I just know, we are all people. Be loving and kind.” She shared the stories of everyone she could find. Our dolls and our music lessons were folks we never heard about in school. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, the list grew as I learned about the library, but even the library lacked knowledge in upstate New York. None the less, it is where my interest began and where my heart remains.

My life has been, time and again saved by music. Decades ago, as a high school and college student, I told the stories and sang the songs of slavery and spirituality to a completely white audience. I did not intend to be a racist imposter and did not intend to sit in cultural appropriation but in hopes of opening the eyes and hearts of the entire white audience before me. Decades later, I love those songs and stories, but they are not mine to sing and tell. I know folks who can and will and I stand to make way for them. In the still racist and biased classrooms of way upstate New York, I will hold the microphone for our children of color, because there are few teachers of color available to do so. Do I know that I walk the line of being called a white savior? Sadly, yes I do. I don’t want to be and I am cognizant of the difference between ally and savior. I also know that the white quiet class needs to speak up, way up. It has never been alright to let the whitewashing, bias, and racism of our curriculum and our world continue. Post your MLK quotes today and do your part every day. We have an obligation, every day. Everyday. Every. Beautiful. Day!

Today, January, 20th 2020: I still have a dream Dr. King, that my family members, my friends, and my colleagues “will one day live in a Nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. (My Lord) I have a dream today.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Dr. King (1/15/29 and always)

My Sincere Respect & Love,

Heather Joy


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