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Here's To You, Mr. Robinson

The bus driver slammed on the brakes and threw us all off except for the seated black woman. It was a defining moment in Civil Rights for me, and a defining moment in my mother’s opinion of my father since the walk to the next bus stop was several blocks away.

January is the month in which we celebrate the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, gunned down over 40 years ago on a motel balcony in Memphis. The night before he took a sniper’s bullet, Dr. King delivered the prophetic speech in which he declaimed he had been to the mountaintop, had looked over and had seen the Promised Land, then, foreshadowing as a poet might, cautioned that “…I might not get there with you.”

It seems a lifetime ago when a mule-drawn farm wagon carried Dr. King’s casket through the thronged and somber streets of Atlanta. For some of us, 40 years is more than a lifetime. Mozart only made it to 35, actor James Dean to 24, Joan of Arc to 19 – and four little girls in Birmingham who didn’t make it out of Sunday School.

Time is relative. The middle of the night seems longer than the middle of the day. When Albert Einstein proposed that even the loss of a tiny bit of matter results in energy multiplied by the speed of light squared, the physicist was trying to say that time depends on how fast things are moving.

Read the entire article in the January 2010 issue