Tuesday, April 3, 2007


It was 1968, and I was 11 years old. I cry as I write this because it is so bitter sweet. A lot happened in 1968, my grandfather, John C. Nolen died, Martin Luther King Jr. died, Bobby Kennedy died and innocence died for me.

Lost my grandfather to lung cancer, he had fought in the "great war" in France but lost the battle to Camel cigarettes and time. That was in February, I didn't attend his funeral because in my family at that time, children were spared death. At least that is what my parent's thought.

The day after Martin Luther King was shot, I can remember going to school and that my 7th grade Tennessee History teacher shut the door to her room and leaned up against her desk and said these words. "Class, I'm going to tell you something and its something you aren't going to hear on the news, and not from your parents. But its something, that you should know because one day you will be as old as I am and you'll have children of your own and if they don't burn down this town you might want to continue to live here." her all white class listened intently "Yesterday, a man was shot downtown, he isn't what the news or the public will portray him to be. The man shot yesterday was a trouble maker. He isn't some leader, he doesn't care what people of his color go through." Most of us kids had never heard of Dr. King before now, we were 11 and 12 years old and we lived in a world all of our own. She proceeded on. "My husband, who has been friends with our mayor Henry Loeb for several years and he spoke to mayor Loeb on the telephone last night. Mayor Loeb told my husband the truth. He said about a week ago, Dr. King and his bunch called and spoke to the mayor and told him if they received payment of at least $2,000 dollars, they wouldn't even come to Memphis for this sanitation strike, but if they didn't get the money, they were coming and bring trouble with them." "So, when you hear how great this man was and what a shame it was that he was killed. You just remember, he came to start trouble and if he could have bribed our officials he would have." With that she stood up and walked around her desk and plopped her bottom down in her chair and told us to open our books. She had assassinated innocence that day.

I never mentioned the incident to my folks. They weren't into listening to the ramblings of an 11-year-old little girl. My mother was worried about the safety of her husband, my dad, who was an employee of the city's sewer and drain maintenance department. Dad drove a black and white "city car" to and from job sites. It looked just like our city's police cars and before the next weekend was over, he had a brick thrown through the windshield as it was parked in front of our home. I can still remember the sound of the car that raced by our house late in the night and the angry shouts and then the shattering glass and the shouts from the brick throwers as they speed off into the early morning hours. My father came into my bedroom and told my sister and I to go sleep with our mother. He sat on my bed the rest of the night, in the dark, looking out our window which was the one closest to his city car. He had his shot gun and it was loaded. He didn't dare go out into the night, but waited to see if anyone would be brave enough to come back and attempt to throw a brick into our house. No one ever did, he parked his car behind our house for weeks afterwards.

Our city went on dusk till dawn curfew, and we sat glued to the television for the news broadcast. I can tell you truthfully that most Memphians didn't understand what had happened or why. Most of us didn't live in a world of hatred for other races. Also most of us didn't live side by side with other races either. We lived in two separate worlds. Neither world hating the other, just existing.

I didn't actually believe my history teacher, but what she had to say did cloud my understanding. What I have heard and read about Dr. King is in such opposition with the character of the person she described to us so long ago.

I have taken the time to read some of Dr. King's sermons and I have watched and studied the
politics of Memphis over the years also. I have made up my mind as to who was serving whom.

Pretty soon, the riots were in larger cities, with more to lose and consequently more to film.

In June, Bobby was shot and it was as if the whole country had lost a brother.

I've seen changes in our city since then on just about every level you can imagine. Some good and some bad.

A fellow blogger had a latin quote for the day, which translated into "the truth shall set you free".

Before leaving you today, let me encourage you to seek out the truth in your own life, especially
regarding the world and lives of those around you. Don't take on the opinions, or attitudes of those around you regarding people, or circumstances that you don't know. They become like shackles and chains. Don't be impatient, it takes time, but its a freedom beyond compare.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you of how the fall of 1968 became my saving grace.