Monday, January 15, 2007

I had a dream

Friday night, I sat in the meeting of the local Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. chapter being berated by a member.

"Well, the MEDIA needs to do a better job publicizing his legacy," the man snapped at me. "If your paper would write about black people doing something, maybe things would change."

I spoke sincerely as I tried to regain my hold of the situation.

"I understand what you're saying and that's exactly why I'm writing this article," I told him and his brothers. "I saw that there was a need to explore this topice. I'm doing what I can. What are you doing?"

After the meeting, I spoke to the man (who I think was sort of hitting on me) and he apologized and told me not to take it personally. But it's hard not to when people chastize you for the work of others that you have no control over.

Today, my story on the way Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is celebrated in Rhode Island ran on our front page. I was proud of it when I filed it Sunday. It was a little wordy, true. Some quote pong was played toward the end. But it started the conversation and without it, we may not have had anything on the front page about the holiday. So, after I returned from the MLK Scholarship breakfast (which started at 7 a.m.), I grabbed a paper to check out the story placement. My 32 inches of copy was on the right bottom of the page. I scanned the front to see what had beat out my story of the legacy of MLK.

A 5-column, half page picture from the Patriots game.
Bush standing by his Iraq plan.
The U.S. summit in the Middle East.
The second in a two-part series on former senators in the U.S. legislature.
Stars hawking wares in Japanese commercials.
And then, my King story.

All of my self-righteousness went out the window as all of the words the man told me about the press not caring came tumbling to my rememberance. The pictures I'd asked them to let us take of their meeting didn't appear in the story (granted, they were only profiles, no exciting shots). I could imagine how that man and his fraternity brothers were reacting to the story.

But I tried. I'm only one person and I can only do so much. But in an industry where many of us don't even get King's birthday off, I'm beginning to wonder how much of an impact I can make. I found the article below as I thumbed through our archives to get a sense of how things used to be. It's definitely a wake up call. I can have all the dreams in the world, but dreams only get you so far.

Nothing would be taken from Dr. King
Mon. Oct. 10, 1983

"Is Thomas Jefferson any the less revered because there is no nationalholiday in his name? Or John Adams? Or a multitude of others in thetwo-centry-long pantheon of outstanding Americans? Of course not. And neither would Martin Luther King Jr., the martyred black civil rightsleader, be reduced in popular esteem should Congress and the Presidentnot memorialize him with a national holiday on his birthdate, Jan. 15.

Were such a designation needed to show proper respect for Dr. King, it would imply that his reputation could not stand by his deeds aloone ashas been the case with a whole roster of equal greats in U.S. history. And this is not true. Dr. King measures up with the best of them. Let's face it. The notion in Washington that enactment of the King-holiday bill is a must arises principally from the politicians' fear thatfailure to pass it will result in their loss of black voters.

Besides such self-serving cravenness, the idea that black Americans (more than other large ethnic groups, each with their own heroes) have to be placated by such a gesture is to patronize them - and the day for that fortunately has gone by in this country. The best tribute to Dr.King is that increasingly paid him on a voluntary basis annually bywhites and non-whites alike, and by the nation's constant move towardending all forms of bigotry. No formal holiday is necessary to advancethis process and none need be created.

Indeed, adding another to the already lengthy list of workdays off wouldhardly improve the nation's economy. And its improvement is the bestfavor that blacks, suffering from an inordinately high unemploymentrate, could recieve. Dr. King himself, who was slain while campaigning for job betterment for blacks in Memphis, would surely agree with that."

Posted by T Dot at 11:30 AM | link

Read or Post a Comment

Sometimes it seems like people question what others do in an effort to validate their own actions (or lack thereof). And the older we get, the harder it is to maintain that utopian sense of purpose, since so many want to negate what we try to do.

But you're doing it regardless. And because of that, you rule, dude.


Posted by Blogger Duck @ 5:55 PM, January 15, 2007 #

I just wanted to put my comments about your efforts on the record.

I am so proud of you for taking the initiative to write this story. You decided the King holiday was a priority and that your newspaper needed to represent.

Good for you.

Mere coverage was not enough; you went beyond the typical, gratuitious parade story and found a unique angle to tell readers about. People who read your story actually learned something, which is at the core of our mission everyday, not just on holidays.

You are to be commended. What you did for January 15, and what you do everyday are truly the borne fruit of Dr. King's legacy.

Errin Haines
Associated Press

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 5:13 PM, January 17, 2007 #
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