Racism has been on my mind a lot lately and yesterday being Martin Luther King Day, it was brought forth front and center. Living in NE Ohio...in the country and not very close to any very diverse population, I feel I have a pretty good perspective on some things. For one, my job is in the heart of downtown Canton which is very diverse and I serve in the Navy which as a whole, the military is a big 'ol melting pot of races, colors, religions, etc. So for me, I embrace all races. I really do. Did I when I graduated high school back in 1991, having never really been out of the country? I don't recall but I bet I wasn't so embracing back then. Diving head first into boot camp at age 18, shaved head and all, no one cared about each others' color of their skin. We were all in it together and that was that. Period. Serving 10 years straight in military on active duty had me working with all kinds of ethnicities and having to put my full trust in them all, as fellow sailors and servicemen and women. In 2001 when I left active duty, I brought that with me, first to Colorado and then back to my hometown where I grew up here in Ohio. Still, though, racism exists and is alive and well in many parts of our country.
As a dad of growing and ever-impressionable little girls, I take this matter very seriously. Proverbs 22, verse 6 reads: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (NIV) Whether you are "religious" or not, surely you have heard of that verse. It's the truth, though, isn't it? They are sponges and soak in just about everything. Verbal, non-verbal, visual, feeling...they soak it all in and in the most inopportune times, it'll come flying right back out at you! Having a federal job, I had yesterday off and living about an hour from Cleveland, I sought out some happenings in the city to take my girls to. Surely, in such a diverse city as Cleveland, I could find something to go to and honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and perhaps get some bonding time with my girls and a bit of education, too. I found the Severance Hall Community Day going on adjacent to Case Western Reserve University. Severance Hall is the home to the famed Cleveland Orchestra. As a sucker for great acoustics, brass and woodwinds coming together in harmony, and for really old, well-maintained structures (like Severance Hall), we headed north.
The day was chock full of events like the Euclid High School drum line, a "global dance and music" performance, the Cleveland Orchestra youth chorus and the youth orchestra itself. We arrived on the east side of Cleveland just before lunch and the first thing we ran into (the drum line was set to begin in 1/2 hour) was a coloring area for kids to color Rev. Dr. MLK and put it on a makeshift "I Have a Dream" wall. The girls were shy, as usual, but quickly armed with Crayola's, they made their piece of art, signed their name to it, and found a spot for it on the wall. Next, they got to pose in front of a giant portrait of the Severance Hall stage and HUGE organ pipes, but holding a violin. (my oldest daughter loved that, by the way) Afterwards, we headed upstairs and took our very own box seat (giving us perfect view of the stage) and minutes later, 25min straight of the drum line. WE LOVED IT!!! After a brief intermission, the Passport Project Global Dance and Music Collective took the stage. It was a mixture of dancers, singer, and musicians from all of the world...an absolute testament to the power of diversity in the arts. I snapped some video of it with my iPhone but just to be safe, I'm not posting it here...would hate to infringe on any copyrights or anything. After that riveting performance, we stayed around a bit more for the powerful youth chorus but tummies were rumbling and bathrooms were calling so we said our goodbyes. I would've loved to stay for the orchestra but those under the age of 10 have an attention span not quite that of their father who could've camped out all day long.
Racism has no place in today's society. In fact, it never has but still, it is a fact of our nation's history and world history. It turns my stomach and infuriates me inside when I hear comments eluding to racism and hate. Unfortunately, I hear them all too often. "Do I say something?" I think to myself. In this area, emotions and beliefs are strong so I feel you have to weigh each situation on its own. Often, I feel, it is best to walk the walk and practice what you preach. I have no tolerance for racism and the best thing I can do is teach that same principle to my children with the hope they walk the same walk. Embracing everyone, treating them as they want to be treated, and standing on the principles they know to be true. Faith and family, I hope, will be at their core, and the principles that come from them will hopefully light their path.
One of my favorite quotes from Rev. Dr. King: "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
I hope you found your own way to celebrate the holiday and will remember and live out the principles the reverend stood upon. I think...I know we can all learn a lot from him.