Monday, January 16

Martin Luther King: A Dream Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

This morning, while chatting with the guy who owns the corner grocery store in my neighborhood, a scruffy little girl came in with an older man, whom I assume was her grandfather. She was dribbling the heck out of a lime-green basketball. Like bam...bam... bam... BAM!

The brother who owns the store turned his attention from me a moment, squinted at the girl and said from behind the counter, "Hey! You're not in a gym, you know."

Following his gaze, I turned to look at the kid, who appeared to be nine or ten. She had the delicate brown face of a young Mary J. Blige. Her fuzzy, unkempt hair was trapped in a rubberband with one long braid hanging down the back.

Anyway, she stopped bouncing her ball. She obediently pressed it against her green husky jacket, beneath which fell baggy camouflage-print pants. She stepped a little closer to her old granddad. But glanced sheepishly at me.

I smiled, noticing her thugged-out jewelry. Around her neck was a long, "silver" chain with a spinner emblem dangling at the end. So wanting to smooth over her embarrassment with a compliment I quipped, "You're a real baller, huh? Like that ice, girl!"

The child grabbed the chain and proudly lifted it closer for me to admire. At the same time, the store owner snuck me a glance and quietly said, "Umm... That's a boy..."

Oops... How could it be? I was too confused. I should have shut up, left it right there. But on I chatted -- now wanting to smooth out my own embarrassment. "So you have the day off from school for Dr. King's holiday?" I chimed.

He nodded yes.

I said, "Well, what did Dr. King do? He must have done something mighty important for us to get the day off. Tell me a little something about Dr. King."

"Uhhh.........................." the young gender-bender began verrrrry slowly. The three of us adults waited and waited. The child must have felt like Tupac: All Eyez on Me. "Uhhh..." he continued, "Dr. King did a lot of things............................ He played basketball!!!"

Now I thought the granddad would pass out in embarrassment. And if he hit the floor, he'd have to leave room for my completely dropped jaw.

One generation more, I realized, and children will barely know the name "Martin Luther King," let alone why they should. Clearly, we're in the midst of an alarming cultural crisis; it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I grappled to justify this child's bizarre reply. Maybe, I rationalized, this kid knows some trivia about Dr. King that I don't. Maybe he attended college on a basketball scholarship or something. And under pressure to answer, this was all the boy could recall at the moment.

Worried about the legacy of Dr. King -- that a 10-year-old today thought The Man was just a friend of Shaq's or something -- I dashed home to hit The Goog Monster. To keep hope alive...
* * * * * * *

On a mission, I opened Google's home page to begin an info search about MLK's b-ball skills. Lo and behold, here's the Google header that greeted me:

It took me a while, but I found this quote by Dr. King's daughter, Yolanda:

... And my dad was really quite a funny man. He was a bit of a cut-up. He was a jokester. He loved to tease, he loved to laugh. He probably could have been quite an athlete as well. He taught me to swim when I was four and taught me how to ride a tricycle and then into a bicycle, and we played basketball and baseball and went to the local amusement park. He and I, the two of us, would ride the dangerous shake-you-up rides, he called them "faith machines." We'd get on them and just have a ball, he was a big kid...

Well, guess that little drag queen told me!

Anyway... here's some other fun stuff that caught my eye about the "big kid" who became The King...

Sounds like Dr. King and his siblings were some bad-azz kids. Their mother had them taking piano lessons for years and they hated it. On numerous occasions, Marty and his brother sabotaged the piano, tried their best to destroy it. His brother took a hammer to the piano keys more than once. To this day, their old house in Atlanta -- now a historic landmark -- displays this very piano. And it is missing teeth.

Another time the King boys unscrewed the legs on the piano bench, praying that when their piano teacher visited again, she would sit on it and wind up crashing to the floor. Presumably she would never come back, having been successfully chased away by these little imps. Apparently, Dr. King's commitment to "nonviolence" would develop late in life.

As a youngster, Jesus wept was his favorite blessing for meals. Only because his belly was an infamous bottomless pit and he wanted to get quickly to Fried Chicken Heaven. So he always kept any grace-saying short and sweet. Cluck and apple pie were among little Marty's favorite foods. The kitchen, they say, was the mighty crumb-snatcher's favorite room in the house.

Guess it's a good thing that snaggle-toothed piano wasn't kept in the kitchen. For had Mama King fallen off that shaky bench while watching her pots, who knows if this child's hide would have been spared to lead a single march.

At the age of about eight, knuckleheaded Marty jumped out of the 2nd floor window. Lucky for us, he went unscathed. The rambunctious child also loved to slide down the banister inside their two-story home. One time, though, little Marty had a Chris Tucker moment: He got knocked the **** out!

I mean, poor Martin Luther rammed his little head into the cellar door, rendering himself unconscious. Three Stooges cuckoo birds aside, I wonder if this is when he first had his famous dream...

So what's the moral of this story?

  1. Never give up on a child. Even the bad-azz, fuzzy-headed ones are full of potential.
  2. Parenting itself may be the greatest "faith machine" in our lives, a double-decade long ride one can only hope to survive.
  3. Even grown folk like us can still learn a thing or two about the heroes we claim to know so well.
  4. And when we get ready to fight for another "black" national holiday, we should take it easy on ourselves. By-pass the great Rosa Parks and just shoot that hoop for Jordan.

Clicks to Miles Davis catalog, but explore as you like


Blogger Berry said...

I enjoyed this post...I like the way your tied it all together because that is really what it is all about.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


Excellent post - it takes a true literary genius to be able to tie this thang together while on the run...


2:59 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


Sometime in the mid-nineteen sixties a little chubby yella girl squatted in the middle of our living room holding a newly bought camera without film in it in her hand….holding it more like a shield, she didn’t want to play with this little boy...but her two younger brothers filled with energy ran like two young tornadoes through the house until their aunt told them to simmer down…

I was probably about 12 when I first met their father. He had just given a speech to a select few of the community’s negro civic leaders and my father had insisted that I go…

It was a school night, I think a Tuesday, and I would have preferred to have stayed at home…but I went…and sat bored…as the talk about community and unity continued for what seemed to be an eternity…looking around there was only one white gentleman, taking notes in the back of the church about 4 rows down….probably a reporter, I thought….

After the speech, I made it to the front of the church, out the door and down the steps….I figured I would have beat anyone else to the car ….and I was correct….he sat in the back seat, his driver hadn’t appeared yet…but I opened the door and, asked him for my autograph….he said not a word, but the look in his face was “whose rude kid this is”….
Nevertheless while he was signing the program I said: “Dr. King, you are a great man.”

Well, doggone it! I was not to be denied my appointment with history….and he was not to be denied his.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

thanks so much, berry. so glad you enjoyed!

4:20 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

thanks a lot, uda! it's funny how it all came together. i'd started the King childhood part of the post before i went to the store. and then once i'd interacted with the child, a new beginning for it just magically unfolded in my head.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

wow, uda, what a wonderful day in your life that was, getting MLK's autograph!

so were those his children in your home, running around and with the camera? if so, sounds like your own parents were fairly active in an important scene.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


tru dat: yoki, dexter and martin.....but as a 12 year old kid the autograph wasn't as significant to me as it was later on...but I there was this SENSE of history and what that moment might mean later on in my was a rich, vibrant time...many vignettes come to mind...I was blessed with good parents...


4:54 PM  
Blogger Inside Man said...

Wow this was a really good post. I wonder if lil man really knew if MLK played ball?

You can pretty much guess that we would never get another holiday under this administration!

8:00 PM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

uda, yeah but at 12, at least you knew enuf to even ask for the man's autograph.

i'm getting the impression that some of these kids today at 12 wouldn't have the presence of mind to ask for Colin or Condi's or Farrakhan's or whomever's autorgraph.

so do you still have MLK's autograph? if so, have your framed it?

6:19 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...


see! i wazn't gone go there! lol

i know that child didn't have a CLUE about MLK's work. but as i said, this notion is so frightening to me, i have to fake it till i make it. i dug up some throwaway comment King's daughter made about her dad being athletic. i just had to find a way to keep hope alive. lol

6:22 AM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


naw...cleaned,auctioned out and sold the old house last June...and never found it...40+ years ago...

yeah, viqi...too many of our kids' 'heroes' today are shootin' hoops...or ak's...either figuratively with rap or literally with lead...


6:51 AM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...

kg folks need another HOLIDAY like Clinton needs another intern...

More Substance, Less Symbolism...


8:50 AM  
Blogger Inside Man said...

Uda - I feel you man, they'd probably give us Tiger Wood's Masters Cup victory day or Colin Powell's birthday (<--cornball) to heavy.

Hey did ya'll here the comments Hillary made about the Bush administration? Not bad, and she did it on MLK day.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


kinda like the pot calling the kettle 'black'...doncha think...

lol...mistress hellary has more of 'em hoodwinked than an alabama possum has fleas...


12:12 PM  
Blogger Soul Searching said...

I agree - great post! I guess we all need to be shown every now and then that we could stand to learn more about people, places, cultures, gender and the list goes on...

Funny that when I read "He played basketball!!!" I thought s/he was just picking out one of their common interests. I just assumed everyone knew about MLK, never really considered the fact that it's not something you're just born with. Weird. And scary. I'd like to believe he was just relating :)

4:04 PM  
Blogger Suezette b.k.a. Mz.Black Geisha said...

This my first time here and I'm loving both your entry and the music selections!!!

4:07 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


MLK would be shocked and disamayed at what the left and their negro pimpdaddies have done to his "Dream" today...the clintons foremost...

5:32 PM  
Blogger said...

damn yo... u did it again.. your posts are so clear... important.. powerful... yo!! im feeling it!! yore style and more importantly- your ideas are so valid and refreshing.. thank you...

12:36 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...


lol: National Caublanasian Day. yup, that could be the next day off.

you know, i'm a supporter of hilary for prez. but she's irking me a little. not about her "plantation" remark. but about her record on iraq.

she voted to give bush the funds originally, and bitched as she did it. she's been fence straddling ever since.

murtha speaks up and takes a stance, still hilary says little.

maybe we should put murtha in a dress and push him out front for prez? lol

10:08 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

hiya soul searching,

i, too, want to believe that every child is "getting" who are founding fathers were, and those like MLK who've helped insure their principles were applied to all.

but i'm afraid that if these MLK-type messages aren't contained in a snappy hit rap song, they're just not getting it.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...


what do you think dr. king would have a problem with regarding the left, the "negro pimp daddies," and the clintons?

just curious... please expound.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

thanks suezette. i've been back to your G.R.I.T.S. site. love the title. did you think of that, or is G.R.I.T.S. a real phrase that lots of people know?

10:21 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

akintoye, thanks for the atta girl about the MLK post!

10:23 AM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


Dr. King was a temperate man...a thoughtful man who parsed his words carefully and prayerfully prepared himself as much as he could - before speaking them...

The current so-called "black leadership" ie Al, Jesse, Louis, Julian, Harry, Maxine, Sheila, the NAACP have not and do not possess that quality of character...the are apt to call other blacks "uncle toms" and "aunt jemimas" while remaining characteristically silent when white liberals/Democrats attack conservative blacks...or even themselves (re: Howard Dean's racist remarks at the Black Caucus)...or "chocolate city Nagin";that was not Dr. King's style...

Today's the self-described Negro LIberal Elite "inheritors" of the dream are too busy stuffing their pockets. Apart from a sitcom for Al or a cash cow for Jesse there remains very little left of the "Dream" for millions of poor/minority or black citizens.

The "liberals" of the civil rights movement came in many shades...but we could always pick out the demogogues ala The Clintons, who were in it for their own selfish pursuits from those who really believed in "The Dream"....Hillary, like her spouse are parasites on "the Dream" and condescending (Plantation remark) manipulators of negroes with such marginal self- esteem that they would rather call a "white man" the "first black president" instead of seeking their own....

The Negro Liberal Elite's canine loyalty to the racist White Liberal/Democratic Party Plantation is the envy of every dog owner on earth.

Yes.....and he would be ashamed.....


6:21 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


A thoughtful review of Hillary Clinton's duplicity with the truth might help to answer your question about her stand on Iraq. May I suggest the following reads.

I especially enjoyed the award winning journalist Barbara Olson's piercing perspectives...Barbara died on 9/11/01 when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon....

Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House
by R Emmett Tyrrell, Mark W Davis

Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years
by Richard Lowry

Rewriting History
by Dick Morris

Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton
by Barbara Olson

The Final Days: The Last, Desperate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House
by Barbara Olson


6:42 PM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


With your extraordinary gift of prose and poetry, you have at your disposal, the mediums of music, literature and cyberspace to inspire our youth.

By providing this Forum, you have given many of us a chance to connect with your God Given Talent. Many matter what we may disagree upon politically...


8:26 PM  
Blogger STYLE+GRACE said...

thanks for stoppin thru...i thought i would return the favor and im liking it...u sold me with the links to Bilal...but this martin luther king piece was very good. i was cracking up b.c. i know how it feels to mistake a girl for a boy and then try to smooth it

9:46 PM  
Blogger STYLE+GRACE said...

MLK day is becoming too commercial.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your blog-am a new blog reader-your voice is excellent-am also a MLK follower, so know the jumped out the window story

once again love the blog

keep it up

I'll be reading

9:42 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

hey uda,

your points about how Dr. King would view today's leaders (African American and the Clintons) is well taken.

however, i'm not wholly convinced that Dr. King would have the same outlook and and use the same tactics as in the sixties, if he were alive today.

even he might have grown at least a little impatient with the progress -- or lack there of -- in terms of true equality by now.

i'll bet that Mrs. King has in recent years said to someone, "Marty would be rolling over in his grave if he knew how things were going down here." and if so, who knows how he would move today to try to steer things in a different direction.

sometimes, desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures.

ps -- thanks for the words. u are da man!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...

hi style & grace,

sounds like we're kindred spirits on the Bilal tip. luv that dude!!

11:28 AM  
Blogger Viqi French said...


thanks so much for leaving a message. i was just too tickled to learn these little "human" aspects of Dr. King as a kid. gotta love 'em!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous UDAMAN said...


I believe that Martin Luther King would be a Conservative Republican if he were alive today...there is absolutely NO comparison with the 'inequalities' of the 1960's and those which you alluded to exist today...

The opportunities to succeed even to the White House politically or the Fortune 500 economically exist TODAY for anyone who is determined to climb out of that mental bucket of oppression, victimization and entitlement and work toward his/her goals...

It remains big business for those who lust for power within the Cottage Industries of the long dead civil rights' movement to play the 'race card' of 'inequality' and 'racism'...

The cliched RETRO-BLACK POWER mindset of the captialist (and very wealthy) Cornel Wests, the Tavis Smileys' or the Maya Angelous'et. al may sound cute, chique and fashionable but totally devoid of any meaningful ideas for the poor minorities of America...

About a year after I met Martin Luther King in North Carolina, he was hit in the neck with a rock which knocked him down to his knee while marching in Chicago. While visiting Harlem in 1958 a psychotic black woman plunged a letter opener so far into his chest that it lodged against his aorta requiring open chest surgery to remove it.

Martin Luther King was a imperfect Christian...but not a secular humanist guided by moral relativsm like Al or Jesse, unlike today's Democrat and/or Liberal demogogues who have hijacked "the Dream", He put his LIFE on the line for what he believed.

Now what could be a more "desparate measure" than that?

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13


7:43 PM  
Blogger lady in satin said...

Wow! What an occurance!! I guess we learn something new everyday, and learn things from people that we didn't expect to learn something from.

Children are precious, and so are our dreams! =)

7:02 PM  

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