We took a trip to the family farm, where my father's roots burned deep and warm
Down South to Jasper Alabam', just a cornfield or two from Birmingham
Where the light folks owned what mattered and the dark folks scraped by the best they could
I recall asking my grandfather if he was of prejudice like most all the rest
And he laughed and said, "why no, I hate all races equally, especially my own"
Looking back, it seems he was more liberal than most of his tired and
'Cause when he went into town he would wave and sometimes actually talk to those called "ne'gro" and "colored"
And for this he was hated by some, though mostly in private behind his back
* * * * * * *
I recollect travelin' on the bus; an old tired dark man got on when we stopped by a field
And being reared in good faith I stood up and offered him a chance to rest his weary feet
The light folks on the bus all started whisperin', giving my father a 'who raised your son' look
But the innocence of my youth offered no explanation for why my father crouched low in his seat
I remember restrooms labeled "Men" and "Women" that were well attended, spotlessly clean
And those marked "Colored" that hadn't seen a broom or mop for many a day
I recall "White Only" signs, proudly displayed in restaurant front windows
And badly injured dark folks waiting in line, while the light doctor treated light children for a wisp of a sniffle
One day while visiting the county courthouse, I paused at a clean "White Only" fountain for a cool drink
'Cause the one labeled "Colored" had putrid warm water and looked like a janitorial cleaning room sink
In the humid summer evenings after dinner, my uncles and cousins would sit on the front porch
And talk about being Democrats and that damn Kennedy, who one day may somehow, even be elected
And discuss who had cheated and who had died and whose woman had worn shorts on Sunday
And make jokes about niggers and complain about niggers and swear against niggers
As though they somehow understood the root cause of the whole earth's
* * * * * * *
Some say there should be no memorial for America's greatest son and what he
did, does not much matter
Others tried hard to find evidence against him, as if they themselves were not the cause of the problem
Some people go to war and then come home and march in parades; a nation salutes and calls them heroes
Other people go to war every day and die in pain, poverty and obscurity, never having known what a good day is
I've joined teamster and construction unions and heard a lot of talk of 'balls' and rumor of 'balls'
But until one has personally seen where Rosa Parks grew up, one has never heard of the word "courage"
And until one marches in Selma’s sweltering heat with Martin Luther King, Jr., there is no understanding of what bravery is
Until one knows of Auschwitz and the cruel reality of our species' legacy, one has not heard nor can comprehend the word "evil"
Until one honors Sitting Bull, repenting of savage blasphemies against the American Nations
One has no idea what sin is, or whose faith it takes to move mountains
And until one understands why peace's prince was crucified, there is no understanding of what truth is
Nor has one been to the mountain top, or understood the fundamental problem
For wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to isolation and confusion and death
Though still water runs deep as high as the heavens tower above our brutal insanity played out here on Planet Earth
And as long as we have fear and hatred, and bigotry in our soul, we know not who the slave is, nor who it is, who is truly free
The King Center Holocaust: Project ABE
Give Kids The World
DEDICATED TO: Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth; 19th Century American champions of Human and Civil Rights. Also dedicated to the late Ralph Abernathy, longtime soldier of the modern Civil Rights Movement and American businessman Henri Landwirth, survivor of Auschwitz who came over to America after the war with $20 in his pocket, became a successful millionaire and continues to donate millions back through his charity for physically challenged children, Give Kids The World---truly one of the most inspiring stories in American history.