Martin Luther King Day

There are so many emotions tied to this holiday this year of 2009. As a writer of African American and biracial characters in LOVE ON THE LINE, I've been thinking about what the holiday has meant in years past. What rose to the top of my thoughts is this: it's not so much about the past, it’s about our present and future. This year, finally, the holiday will take its rightful place as an “American Holiday,” not just one added for African Americans.

Among the many things that the election of President Obama has done for this nation of peoples is to offer us a chance to be Americans first. In doing so, Dr. King becomes an American hero, first and foremost. He helped our country move past its most shameful history to strive for the best we can be.

Are we all glad that slavery and segregation and nationalized hatred have been abolished? Of course we are. All Americans can take pride in that achievement, just as we do in any American victory, be it an Olympic champion or a walk on the moon. We smile and say, “An American did that. One of us!” Obama's election is, simply put, the spirit of equality put into action.

That doesn't mean that many of us don't still wrestle with what it means to be American versus being a member of a particular ethnic or social or even religious group within our greater society. In LOVE ON THE LINE, my character Thea Morgan, a light-skinned African American wife, business woman, and mother, struggles with the issue of her identity as not been "seen" as black enough in both her personal and business life. Her biracial daughter Jesse, has similar, yet different, issues to resolve. Can you be part of two equal halves? Should you choose? Should you have to?

These are very real personal dramas that occur everyday all over the U. S. I worked from my own experience as a light-skinned African American, as well as those of many different people I know of many backgrounds. Just as Jesse and Thea work out how to live their best lives, my hope is that we all come to accept that with all our differences, and interests, and ways of expressing ourselves, we truly are, at the end of every day, one nation, indivisible. Happy Birthday, Dr. King. Happy New Year, America.

How do you feel about this holiday and what it represents? Do you think that personal struggles, and we all have them, reflect national attitudes? Or is it just part of growing up for each of us to have to try to define ourselves against the culture in which we grow up? I'd really love to hear your thoughts on these very provocative and important issues.

Laura Castoro

50 Comments:

Anonymous Andy Bryant said:

I was so glad to find this post so that I can express my personal feeling about what MLK day means to me in 2009. Here in Mississippi many African Americans of which I'm included have found it more promising today to simply be an American. Before this years presidential election there was always the qualifier of which ethnic american you are. Now I cross streets with my back a little straighter. As a business man I approach meetings as simply representing my business rather than my qualified "black" business. I am more hopeful, more thankful, and more positive for what Dr. King achieved and for the vision which is being realized.

Andy Bryant
Starkville, MS

9:10 PM  

Blogger Chick Lit Gurrl said:

It's hard for me to express my feelings on what MLK Day and '09 means to me. The more I think about it, the more emotional I become.

I know Michelle Obama said something almost to this effect a while back and was given a lot of grief for it, but here it goes: Never in my life have I felt more like an American and more PROUD to be an American as I do now.

To live in a world where we elect a bi-racial man as president. I'm 36, and God willing, have a lot of years left in me, and I just could not imagine that I would ever live in an America where my president might reflect me.

His election makes MLK so poignant to me right now because I feel like I have a voice, that there is a voice that was listened to in Obama. And to have the inauguration the day after MLK is just so apropos.

I know that I will have the waterworks working on Monday and Tuesday because I know how hard the struggle has been just to get HERE and how hard the struggle will be after Tuesday has come and gone.


Shon Bacon
Lake Charles, LA

9:15 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

What wonderful thoughts Laura.
For me, it's the juxtaposition of these two great celebrations--the inauguration of
an African American president and the memorialization of the man who enabled that inauguration to become a reality--that makes these days seem so magical. And yet I fear that this enchantment will be very short-lived because just as Obama seems to transcend race, our problems-economic, social, environmental and geopolitical-also transcend race. And their enormity weighs heavily on every American, regardless of race. But for the first time in eight years, well in truth, more than eight years, I have hope. Maybe not hope that our problems will be solved. Maybe not hope that our needs will be met. But hope that a just man will be making decisions with integrity, intelligence and in good faith. And for me, right now, that's magic enough.



Dallas Texas

10:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

MLK day and Obama's election really say to me that we do want to get over the segregation and and polarization in our country. Maybe the world will learn how to work together and we can tackle the false separations created by some aspects of religions and race.
We are riding high right now, full of gratitude and hope. But we still have to learn how to know and respect one another. We have lots of learning to do about how to live together. Glad your book is opening the door for rich discussions about shades of isms we haven't examined in a long time. I look forward to fresh insights and I expect to open any door that will lead me there. A romance novel is a gentle invitation.
Sharon Spurlin

12:18 AM  

Anonymous Clarice Miller said:

I am just so overwhelmed with feelings of pride, joy and appreciation for the life, struggles and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and now of President-Elect Barack Obama.

I am approaching seventy years of age, and am a "Southerner" by birth and choice. Never, never did I think I would live to vote for a viable candidate, for President of these United States who happens to be African-American.

My days will continue to be filled with thoughts, prayers, and hope for a better future with MLK's dream realized and Obama leading us into a season of change for all peoples of the world.

Little Rock, Arkansas

12:24 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I do believe that personal struggles reflect national attitudes for as individuals, we make up the 'whole'.
I feel that if Dr. King were living, he would finally feel some completeness in knowing that his work was not in vain.........finally! But, the struggle is not over, one giant hurdle leap.

12:36 AM  

Anonymous Darla Moore said:

Laura, MLk holiday and the election of Barack Obama makes me more hopeful for the future. That all the sacrifice and struggles will not be in vain.

My hope is for those who have long been left out of the process will be inspired. There is so much promise in our youth if they will accept the challenge and work hard. If you can concieve it you can achieve it. I know this is just another another cliche`, but this one I actually believe.

12:59 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

My hope, inspired by Dr. King's dream, is that 5 or 6 years into the Obama presidency that talk of his being the first African American president will have faded, and that President Obama will be praised and criticized solely for the quality of his work in office. If this comes to pass--and I think it will--then part of Dr. King's dream will indeed have come true.

Burke
Houston

8:51 AM  

Blogger STORIDIVA said:

What a joy! What a dream realized. YES! Even with MLK's Speech ringing loudly in my ears I was one of the ones who said this could never happen in MY lifetime

Those of us who lived it and came through it truly know what this unprecedented time means. Does it mean that this new president will solve every problem? No.
What it means is that he will try and do his best. What it means is that WE are as good as anyone else.
We are not aliens from another planet, we are people from right here and as long as there is life there is hope and audacity of it.

Rejoice in this day.

Patt

8:59 AM  

Blogger J. Hansen said:

I think you've pinpointed such an essential aspect of what Obama's election can mean - that being American now transcends so much history, so much divisiveness. Now, we can all simply be American, we've moved on and past something that always held us back. I also love what Anonymous in Dallas wrote above, that a just man will be making decisions with intelligence, integrity and in good faith. Isn't that what the Framers and Founders wanted?

What a day - tearful and joyful and resonating with our own personal history and our nation's history. I'm overwhelmed. I think you've summed this up so well, Laura. Thank you. And God Bless America. Today and tomorrow we rejoice. After that, the hard part starts and we will need the sense of blessing and rightness that seems so clear to us now.

9:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Being of Laura's generation, I share the feeling that for the very first time in my life MLK Day emerges as a true American holiday. Instead of people asking why a certain school or business is closed today, I find folks surprised that certain enterprises are OPEN!

This point was really brought home last week when my second grade daughter had to choose an "American legend" to profile for a class project. Right off the bat she said -- "I think EVERYONE is going to pick Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He's the best one!" This white second grader in a very multi-racial school had no problem identifying that Dr. King was hugely important for AMERICANS, not just African-Americans.

My sixth-grade son is all geared up to tape and watch the inauguration. He has an Obama "shrine" in the corner of his bedroom, with of course a copy of the famous HOPE poster and other memorabilia.

To my kids, Obama -- like King -- is a leader who is standing behind his ideas and ideals to lead us all. Not a black leader -- our leader.

Thanks, Laura Castoro, for sharing your insights during this amazing week of sharing for our country!

Anonymous Mom and Lawyer
Dallas, Texas

9:26 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Laura you touched on so many of the same points that many of us feel.


It is my hope that we as a nation can come together for the greater good of us all.


I have no delusions that prejudice will miraculously disappear once President Obama takes office. It is however my sincere hope that we all become a little more tolerant of one another.


That we learn to respect one another. We don't have to agree on everything or any thing but respect the each other's right to their opinion or belief.

This year's MLK holiday is bittersweet for me.


As it's the eve of the swearing in of this nation's first black man as President, and my Granddad, Father, Mother and my Madear, are not here to witness it.


So today and tomorrow I will shed tears, laugh, rejoice and celebrate for them as well.


Janice

9:53 AM  

Anonymous carlo c said:

Laura- As a white man who grew up in a white community and culture, I saw no struggle- I was part of a problem I didn't know existed. Sure, I embraced my cultural fear of people different from us, and mouthed the prejudice and words I had been taught on the street (thankfully, not by my father, who tried to teach me that all men are equal). After Martin Luther King marched, after John and Robert Kennedy faced down George Wallace, after assassination after assassination filled the media, after the riots, yes, I became aware that something was wrong, and yes, I see that as part of the national consciousness that seems to me to have grown from the seeds of those who bravely stood up for, and even died, for what they believed in. I am grateful to Dr. King for his vision and love of humanity, and I think the day of remembrance of this great man is even more fitting on the eve of the inauguration of Barack Obama, a day he helped pave the way for 45 years ago.

10:17 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I feel so blessed to be a citizen of the United States today...like Michelle Obama, maybe for the first time in my adult life...I've never felt so full of hope.

As Will Smith said; Obama's election hass broken every glass ceiling in America and I am proud.

Celebrating MLK's dream today is such a sweet taste in my mouth!

My grandchildren can dream and see their dreams come true.

Idrissa Uqdah

10:32 AM  

Blogger Monica "Dr. Moe" Anderson said:

Laura,
Your thoughts are a reflection of my own as I cogitate on the historic significance of Dr. King's dream and President-elect Obama's vision. For me, their strength and our strength as a nation lies in our ability to look forward. The lessons of our past are important, but, for too long, history has been used to divide us. It is my dream this amazing election that went from impossible to inaugural, will become the history that unites and makes us all visionaries again. The problems of our nation will never be solved by one man. However, one man can mobilize a nation into believing "Yes, we can."
Kudos to you and God bless America.
Your friend in Arlington, Texas,
mOe

11:36 AM  

Blogger Minnie E Miller said:

Laura, dropped by to inspect your blog. Very imformative. I wish you much success with your latest novel.

Minnie Estelle Miller
Author

11:39 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I'm 61 (white, Jewish) and came of age during the Civil Rights era. It was that political and shared struggle that shaped my life as an individual, as a citizen and -- fundamentally -- as a human being.

Despite what is dire about these times, I definitely feel hopeful and joyous as Obama becomes our president. The young people (mostly young people of color) I work with in San Francisco are already writing poems that are not odes to Obama but that are filled with images in which Obama and this election reflect possibility made real. Whatever else Obama -- and all of us -- are or aren't able to accomplish, what I hear from our youth is already huge.

Judith

11:49 AM  

Blogger Maryann Miller said:

What a wonderful post, Laura, and great comments by all the visitors. This is such an exciting moment in history for all Americans, and I am thrilled when I think of what the future holds. It can only get better from here.

I am hosting an Inaugural Bash at a coffee shop here in my small East Texas town. I have asked people to come regardless of their political, cultural, or racial identities. Just come and mark this wonderful moment in a significant way.

12:06 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Wonderful blog and so well said.
For me, today represents more hope in our wonderful country than I can ever recall. It's a great feeling to actually witness such history in America and to recall so many great and dynamic people that took the steps to make tomorrow finally happen. And today we celebrate one of those very significant people...Dr. Martin Luther King.
The phrase circulating the Internet during Obama's campaign says it all for me:
Rosa sat so Martin could walk
Martin walked so Obama could run
Obama ran so our children can fly!
Terri
http://www.islandwriter.net

12:18 PM  

Anonymous Robert Flynn said:

I had a class after I learned of Dr. King's death. I told them that we had to take a moment to remember the greatest Christian and one of the greatest Americans of our time. Every year on his day I wonder how many of them remember.

Today is important to me, a white, southern male, because Martin Luther King, Jr. saved the America I love and made it more possible to be the America I am proud of.

12:48 PM  

Blogger Beverly said:

Very nice blog.

Gives us much thoughts to reflect upon.

I feel blessed to be able to live to see this day but get so proud when I see my grandchildren feel so proud to live to see the first African-American elected President of the United States.

My grandchildren are participating in the National Day of Service and are hoping for snow tomorrow so they can be home and watch all of the activities live on TV.

12:53 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Good to hear your thoughts, Laura.
I got chills the day Obama was elected because I didn't think a bi-racial man would lead this nation in my lifetime. Then, I was a little ashamed of myself for classifying him as part of a particular ethnic group rather than "an American," as we all are.
We're all in this together, like it or not. Now there is more hope that we may all think of people - to use the words of Thea in Laura's new book - for WHO they are, not WHAT they are. Or, from MLK's thoughts - by their character, not their color.
And, btw, when people ask about my race, I usually tell them, "human."
Ann, Texas

1:24 PM  

Blogger Laura said:

Posting for a friend who couldn't get through:

Millions of us find ourselves wishing a parent, friend, or acquaintance were still alive to witness the historic Obama Inauguration.

My parents grew up during the Great Depression. They were in awe of FDR and later had to ignore the disparaging remarks from friends and fellow church members
because of their support for JFK, a Catholic.

My dad received all manner of threats, both implied and verbal, from the KKK because he, a white man, spent every one of his days off, as well as almost all his vacations from his blue-collar job going out into rural areas of South Carolina, setting up a card table in a church yard, in front of a general store, or other such
venues where he helped African Americans register to vote. He took me with him so I could learn the value of the ballot and to become aware that so many people had been deprived of the right to vote because of the color of their skin.

After his death in 1996, I was sorting out his papers and came upon a letter he had saved but had never revealed to any of the family because of his oft-stated belief that "bragging about yourself just isn't proper."

The letter was from Nicholas Katzenbach, LBJ's 2nd Attorney General following RFK, commending my dad for having personally helped more minorities register to vote than anyone else in our state up until that time. I showed this to my mother and she, too, was totally unaware of its existence.

I wished my father had shared that congratulatory letter with us. I was always proud of him but never more so than at that moment.


Tom

2:17 PM  

Blogger Angela said:

This is a wonderful blog posting. I'm glad to have read it. So many have stated the same sentiments I feel so I won't rehash everything.
I do want to add that this historical moment is one like many that have come before and shall come to be in the process of this country redefining itself again and again.
This country was conceived and birthed, much like a child, through hardships, struggles and finally made into one nation united. Over scores of years, we've grown, redifined, struggled, dealt with inner turmoils and identity crisies, much like a child struggling with adolesnce and discovering the person they want to be. Even as a young person comes into their own, they still deal with redefining themselves over and over, much like this nation redefined itself from being a country of revolution to cival war to race wars to reaching the historical moment of today.

2:46 PM  

Blogger Niambi Brown Davis said:

The beauty and wonder of this time in our history is something I wish my parents were alive to witness. As many others have said, "I never thought I'd live to see this day." I remember Freedom Summeer, the Freedom Riders, The March on Washington and Bloody Sunday. But in the words of Bob Dylan "The Times They Are a'Changing," and in the words of Whoopi Goldberg, I can finally put my suitcases down.: :)

3:58 PM  

Anonymous Chris Castoro said:

I have often wondered about - and chaffed a bit- about the idea of MLK Holiday being a "Black Holiday". It's one that should be shared by all Americans, and celebrated. Dr. King helped free white Americans too- freed us from the ideas of segregation, bigotry and resentment. Freed us to be a better nation, one that can employ the talents and ideas of everyone - not just the privileged class. We have a lot to thank Dr. King for. He is (or should be) an inspiration to all Americans. "Free at last" indeed.

5:17 PM  

Anonymous shelia said:

How do you feel about this holiday and what it represents?
Wow, there are hardly words to describe what the holiday means for me this year. On the eve of Pres. Obama's inauguration, it means more now than ever before. Dr. King and our forefathers fought and died for us to be truly free. We all have more in common than differences and I'm so glad to have lived to see us come together the way that we have.

5:21 PM  

Blogger traycep said:

As a member of several minority groups and a couple of non-minority but not too easy ones, all I can add is Amen.

9:39 PM  

Anonymous Laura Castro said:

Wow! What wonderful, insightful, heartfelt responses. I thank everyone who commented so far. I've been touched by your candid remarks, your sharing of your own stories, and the degree to which this subject has given rise to deep reflection on not on the day but our place in the world as Americans. I can't thank you enough and wish each of you a positive and hopeful new year!

Do let me continue to hear from you.

Laura Castoro

11:21 PM  

Anonymous Evelyn Palfrey said:

As a woman who grew up during wretched Jim Crow times, and who was in the second wave of Black students who integrated colleges, and who is now a grandmother (where did the time go!), I have profoundly mixed emotions about the MLK holiday.

I feel a sense of gratitude to, not only one great man, but to untold numbers of people (like a previous poster's father) who fought against injustice. I feel a sense of awe that my grandbabies cannot even imagine the kind of world I grew up in, much less those who went before. Walking in the march today with those two little ones, I was imbued with determination to do my small part to continue Dr. King's work.

12:29 AM  

Blogger ESI said:

Wow. Haven't had a chance to read all the comments yet (because I'm in DC!) but what a great post, Laura. In a lot of ways, America is still a very young country, still in search of its own identity. And sure, that means mistakes will be made, but it also means that our ability and willingness to change is vast. It's been so exciting to be down here, especially on MLK day. Participating in the day of service was such a clear way to see how great this country is.

5:27 AM  

Blogger Linda Chavis said:

Great Blog !

8:44 AM  

Blogger 'Cilla said:

Fantastic Blog.. Thanks for sharing.

I can remember watching my grandmother and mother leave the house at 5 am to clean houses. My grandmother's words remain with me... "You can do anything you want to do. I work this hard so that you won't have to spend your life cleaning for other people". MLK Jr. spoke of it and put it into focus. With the election of Obama, she is right. The Sky is the limitless.

9:01 AM  

Blogger Cara said:

Martin Luther King day has always represented dual ideas in my mind. First, establishing equality in a world that resists it, and second speaking out for one's beliefs. Both of these can only be achieved if I push myself beyond what is comfortable--reach higher than my own wants.

The inauguration will highlight a man who has found a way to bring these ideas into practice. Obama has a fire for justice and for America. But it's important also to resist isolating him because of his color. If we focus too much his acheivements only as a black man, we are in danger of exacerbating racial conflicts and minimizing him as simply, a man. As he promised early on, he has inspired a whisp of hope. Hope for our nation of course, but more than that, I now hold the hope that we are learning to look past the physical and see only what matters. Integrity.

Today, I am proud of our nation. I'm thrilled that we are working together and seeing one another as Americans, as brothers and sisters, no matter the color.

Maya Angelou's Poem "Still I Rise" is a favorite of mine and is perfect for this moment.

I'm just so proud of us!
--Cara Brookins

10:04 AM  

Anonymous Carolyn Blakely said:

Laura,
Thank you for such wonderful and insightful thoughts, not only on Martin Lulther King's birthday and and service, but also on the historical inauguration of our 44th President and the impact that he has had, and will continue to have, on our world. I am overwhelmed by the emotions, support, and unity that I am observing among our national and international citizens. I pray that we continue in this spirit and give abundantly of our support and service to continuing to fulfill Martin's dream.
Carolyn Blakely
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

10:21 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Wow...Americans First...thats BIG...so many of us have had to segment our lives and thoughts as Black First...I am encouraged and gratefull that my children will grow up in a Nation where they can be Americans first!

2:41 PM  

Blogger Laura said:

Laura posting for another friend who couldn't get through: His name is Bob and this is an excerpt from a series of emails with an English Friend on Nov 4 election:

"Such a nice blog on the Avon site regarding President-elect Obama and MLK. And so many wonderful comments! I wanted to post a comment, but what I would really like to post is an email exchange from 11/4/08 to 11/8/08 right after the election, between a Brit friend of mine who lives in County Kent, England. Here we go:

11/4/08 Bob, Go do your civic duty then like a good American citizen...I will not ask you for who you are voting because we Brits would think that was impolite. All I can say is I will be glad when its all over especially as I can think of better things on which to spend all that electioneering money. Roy

11/4/08 Roy, There is one thing you will never have the chance to experience: what it feels like to be an American tonight. Regardless of who one voted for, there is no other experience like tonight in the world. There is a feeling among many of us here that tonight, finally, after 230 years, we have fulfilled what we said so long ago: "All men are created equal." And the very gracious and eloquent speech by John McCain in defeat, and the buoyant, optimistic, "yes we can" speech by Barack Obama in inclusive acceptance. I'm sorry you cannot experience a night like tonight. And that you will not be able to experience that day in January, 2009, when a Black man climbs the steps built by Black slaves to take the oath of office of the President. Democrat or Republican, this is a time of awe and wonder in what is, at last, truly the "land of the free." I don't mind saying I voted for the fella who will be our next president. Bob

11/5/08 Bob, We Brits do not have the same enthusiasm you Americans have for your politicians but I must say for the first time we (in the main) feel inspired by Mr. Obama. I hope for all our sakes he proves to be the President we wish him to be but please don't mind if I reserve judgment for a while yet. Surely though, anything will be better than the Bush. Roy

11/6/08 Y'know, Roy, I have never been a "flag waver" and hate all things which smack of "Patriotism," and had in fact been a Hillary backer during the Democratic primary campaign. But as I watched and listened first to McCain's concession speech, which I think was one of the best I've ever heard in American politics, and then Obama's speech, I felt something I have not felt in my 36 years of Presidential voting (the 1972 election was the first one I was old enough to vote in). I felt moved. I felt inspired. I felt that something important was happening, and I was watching and hearing it, that something out there in the cosmos had shifted, and I must confess, I did not expect to feel such a thing, and never have before in American Presidential politics. It just happened as I watched and listened to the two speeches back to back. McCain says he is ready to help Obama in every way he can and that Obama "will be my president too," and he means it. All the respect I had lost for McCain during the campaign was restored by his concession speech; it's too bad we didn't see him like that during his campaign. And for us here in the States, there is an added element that I tried to allude to in my previous email; I feel like something in this country that has been festering for 230 years (I date from the 1789 adoption of the Constitution), namely, the heavy weight of the baggage of slavery, segregation, and inequality in this country, has undergone some sort of tremendous healing; something this country has needed for a long time. Now, finally, it is true: anyone can indeed become President in our country. I did not realize I would feel that point so heavily or so emotionally Tuesday night, but there it was. Something in this country has healed. It is only something you would understand if you were born in this country. I don't know how else to say it. I am a native Kansan, born and raised in this state. Kansas was where our Civil War started. The Civil War was the direct result of whether or not Kansas would be admitted to the Union as a Free or aSlave state; the Free-staters won out, and ever since, Kansas has been a leader in Civil Rights, though most of the rest of the country doesn't acknowledge that. The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education was about the right of a Black student to attend an all-white school in Topeka, Kansas. That was the first major chink in segregation. I was born in Topeka just the year before. The first Black lunch-counter sit in occurred in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas, at the Dockum Drug Store; this was several years before similar lunch-counter sit-ins began to occur in the South, patterned after the 1958 Wichita sit-in. My family moved to Wichita in that same year, 1958. My parents raised me to consider "all men created equal," and practiced what they preached.

So, when I traced several of my ancestral family lines back to Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, and found that some of my ancestors had in fact owned slaves, it was a total shock. They never had any big plantations or anything, but some of them did own very small numbers of slaves. Suddenly, slavery was my heritage, too.

This is what makes me hopeful about the election of Barack Obama. Because all kinds of Americans voted for him; all colors, religions, economic levels, all ages. It's time for a Black president here in this country. But the thing is, you can't elect someone simply because it's time to have a Black president. You also have to remember you're electing a President. So it has to be the right person, not just the right time. And Tuesday night, much to my amazement, I suddenly knew it was both the right time, and the right person. Bob

11/6/08 And so I am optimistic. I certainly did not expect to be moved as I was watching those two speeches. I hope you, Roy, get a chance to watch and hear both of them in their entirety. They are both examples of what is good about American politics.

Bob

9:41 AM  

Anonymous Sandra Kitt said:

Thank you Laura for a thoughtful and timely commentary on MLK Day, our 44th President, and being an American. And I've thoroughly enjoyed the feedback and other thoughts on these issues.

As a fellow novelist, and one who years ago was labeled in a dismissive way 'the one who writes interracial love stories', it is gratifying to read the awareness and acceptance and appreciation that 'we' have changed. I have never been one to dwell in the past, finding our present and future much more interesting because of the potential and promise it holds. My stories redefine love and relationships always thinking forward.

Dr. King used the history of slavery and Blacks in America to try and forge a whole new legacy about being American and what that ultimately means. History is always a stepping stone to the next level of development, and evolution.

Life should be about change, since it's inevitable, and we should embrace it because of the opportunity to grow and evolve. It's messy, risky and often difficult, but the rewards are invariably great. We, as individuals, become better people.
As a writer my early interracial stories (THE COLOR OF LOVE, SIGNIFICANT OTHERS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS) were not really about love between races, but about how we except and deal with change, how do we deal with differences, how do we become inclusive and respect what every human being contributes to humanity. How do we think and fell outside of the box, and broaden our world view to include everyone? I use love stories to answer those questions or even just to explore it, because love is the most fundamental and enduring of all human emotions. It's what everyone wants for themselves; to love and be loved.

When it became apparent that Barack Obama was going to be our next President I was simply overwhelmed with pride, admiration, joy and hope. NOT first and foremost because he was African American like myself (although there was certainly that), but because the American people, in all its diversity of race, age gender, had overwhelmingly chosen him to represent ALL of us. It felt so much like we had all arrived finally on common ground, with a common purpose and common ideals that has always led the way, in the world, of how to make it work. We should not forget that, despite very difficult times and many disappointments of the last several years, America, with its extraordinary diversity, is the gold standard. We make it work! Diversity, what makes each of us unique, is one of our greatest strengths as a nation. Under the leadership of President Obama, may we all embrace it and learn to live it well.

Sandra Kitt
Author

1:56 PM  

Anonymous June Freeman said:

Laura, you are not alone in confronting identity issues. Born a Jew, I have in many ways been an outsider myself.

Barack Obama called himself a "mutt", a way of telling others that he is the product of a white mother and a black father. We agree that even today one whose skin is tinged with black is identified as black - no matter what the black/white percentages of his parentage may be. Perhaps someday, as MLK said, we will be known not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.

I voted for Obama because I thought he would provide the leadership this country needs. His intelligence, education, character and commitment to basic American values spoke to me. Color didn't figure in the equation.

He is a wonderful role model for all young people as is his wife Michelle. There's a Lincolnesque quality about him that appeals to many. While many blacks claim him as one of them, let's remember he's one of us as well. We're all part of the same universe. I'm forever grateful to MLK for his help. The celebration of his birthday is an American holiday.

Thank you Laura for encouraging us to write.

June Freeman. Little Rock

9:47 PM  

Blogger Zetta Brown said:

Dear Laura, your words are eloquent and RIGHT ON.

After living in Scotland for the last 3 years, I can say without a doubt that the UK is looking very closely at the US--not just for political reasons, but for racial ones too. The UK struggles with wanting to (re)claim their own identity while not isolating Europe and the rest of the world. Can the US do it? Can the US, with its new president, embrace all of its pieces and be whole while not being closed to everyone else?

Frankly, I think we are now going to go in the right direction and say it's OK to be proud of who we are AND appreciate the pride others have for themselves worldwide.

6:06 AM  

Blogger Bana said:

I'm 25 years old, almost 26, and I never thought I'd live to see this day. And yet, even if a day like this never happens again, I can at least tell those who come after me that I bore witness to a possibility coming into fruition. We still have a long ways to go, and like President Obama said (I still get chills and a cheesy grin saying/hearing/reading that), Dr. King's dream isn't the finish line. But more importantly, Dr. King didn't come up with this dream by himself and broadcast it to the masses. Dr. King is merely the symbol of an entire people's dream. He was chosen to be the voice of a people who'd been systemically muted and ignored. So I get a little irritated when people think he came up with it.

As Dr. Maya Angelou said, "I am the dream and the hope of a slave." Dr. King represents not only his personal dream and wish, but his wife's dream; his parents' dream, his great-grandparents' dream; his children's dream; his children's children's children's dream; and the dream of people he could never meet. That dream was mine before I was ever a twinkle in my father's eye, and though that dream has become a clearer, as if the focus of a lens has been sharpened just a little bit, it is still not hear yet. Close, oh so close, but not here YET. I think we should all remember that even as we celebrate this fantastic historic--and PRESENT--occasion. Further, this is the 100 year anniversary of the NAACP. And while the opening pages of The Souls of Black Folk still apply in very real ways, at least one of those "colored people" advanced all the way up to sit at the main desk in the Oval Office.

Savannah J. Frierson,
Author

(PS--I'll admit that I'm a tad more giddier that my First Lady and the First Children are black too!)

6:45 AM  

Blogger lastnerve said:

I loved your article and I loved what it said! This is such a historic time in history as was it in MLK's day. I look forward to what the future will bring!

7:57 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I loved this article Laura. I hope and I know it will not be soon that we will see President Obama be refered to as the man whom we have elected to office and intrusted to lead us out of the struggles this country is in. History has been made we all know he is African American now lets let the Man run this country to the best of his abilities. Making decisions whether we agree or not he is making them as the President of the USA not because he is African American.

9:44 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Hi Miss Laura!!! TOLD YOU I'D GET HERE.
I don't know if I have words to express how I felt on monday and tuesday(jan 19th and 20th) comming from a generation were history was grazed over in school, what i know of the struggle has been passed on from family and family friends, i think most of my pride comes from knowing that OUR ancestors knew this day was coming...they didn't know when or how, but the knew such a day would be possible...And like your latest characters(no i am not that light) I've struggled all my life with that duality...can i be black, can i be latino..i now have little cousins who are asking questions...and its good to have these moments, where we can look back at history and see where we've been and look in the mirror at our present and say "this is good" and know that our future will be better....did that make sense... hope so...
LOVE YA
DREA

10:33 AM  

Blogger Laura said:

Laura, adding comment from someone having sign-on problems:

GAIL MORSCHHEIMER SAYS: LAURA PARKER CASTORO EXPRESSES HERSELF IN A WAY THAT LEAVES THE REST OF US IN HER WAKE! WISH I HAD HER TALENT! WAY TO GO, LAURA!

11:42 AM  

Blogger Laura said:

Once again, let me say how happy I am to have so many responses from so many persons. It gives me even more hope, and a certain pride, to know that you are all thinking deeply and, in many cases, sharing personal stories.

As a writer, I listen intently to what readers and people I meet share with me. This allows me understand other ways of viewing the world. That helps me write better, stronger, more believable characters. To see the world through another's eyes is invaluable to me. Thank you.

I hope you will pick up a copy of LOVE ON THE LINE, and then let me know what you think of it. Stories, like cake, are best when shared!

Laura

11:52 AM  

Blogger ESI said:

Laura, you share your cake? You're a better woman than I! ;)

1:12 PM  

Blogger Mary said:

I'm not even sure where to start. First of all, the combination of Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th president of the US on the heels of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday was emotionally so incredible for me that words can't describe it!!!

Second, I have returned back home to the South after being a self-willed 'expatriate' for 20 years. I'm getting to know all of the complexities and nuances of the Mississippi Delta as a seasoned adult, and I'm beginning to let go of some of the stereotypes I've harbored toward my home while still recognizing some of the issues that disturb me the most.

What I feel at this time is that we're literally at a crossroads, collectively and invidiually, of dramatic change that we can steer in the direction of conscious transformation. To me, this means recognizing and celebrating the "patchwork" we are, and that we've always been. This is what it means to be American in all its complexity and range. It means having the limitless grit and determination that both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama expemplify; this gives my hope the hands and feet; sweat and tears to get through and grow through these times of crisis and possibility. And, I've never identified more with America and the world as I hear yet another story about job loss, struggle, and the chutzpah of faith and perseverance that some kind of way, I believe that we will make a way out of no way. As an American and Daughter of the African Diaspora (that is all inclusive by definition), I draw on this strength that African Americans have perfected through the generations!
Mary
Pine Bluff, AR

2:34 PM  

Anonymous Bob Dean said:

Laura, I want to post a bit more from my email echange with my friend Roy in Kent, England, from the days right after the election, especially because of the comment above from Zetta Brown about the UK looking very closely at the US right now; indeed, I can vouch for that, as my friend Roy has indicated, and as refelected on the BBC News on PBS, for those of you who watch that to get an "outside" perspective on how the rest of the world percieves the US. Here's a bit more of the November email exhange with Roy in England; Roy's answer surprised me somewhat, and again hit home we are experiencing a time of global impact right now, if we just keep on the Path:

11/7/08 Roy, the other thing I mention I don't think you can relate to. Though the British had slavery in the colonies back in the old days, you guys never really had it as an institution on your home turf---England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland. Though it was in fact legal on your home turf until about 1800, there was no economic incentive for it to take root and develop there; your country squires and such still operated on what was left of the old fuedal manorial system, and the work force to sustain their operations was already in place. However, in the Colonies, the story was entirely different. Since the Indians wouldn't co-operate---and most along the East Coast died out from European diseases fairly quickly anyway---an influx of cheap labor was needed to run the tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane plantations. And so the institution of Black African slavery took deep root here on this side of the Atlantic---not only in the British colonies, but also in the Dutch colonies in New York and New Jersey (slavery was not totally abolished in the State of New York until 1820, though we tend to think of it as "Southern"), and in the Spanish colonies. Then, when we Yanks had our little taxation disagreement with the Mother Country, we kept that "peculiar institution" which we'd already lived with for 150 years.

So this country has a heritage of the ownership of human beings of another skin color which your country never had---serfdom was not the same thing as slavery. And the legacy of this "peculiar institution" has continued to plague us, even after the Civil War. And it did not end in the 1960s and 1970s with Dr. King and LBJ. It's always been there, under the surface of the American skin. Scratch any Yank, black or white, and you will find the wake of those slave ships in the course of his blood.

This is what I found breathtaking about Barack Obama's victory Tuesday night, and it is, and can only be, uniquely American. You Brits may some day eventually have a Black Prime Minister. But it won't have nearly the impact for you that a Black President in this country does for us---no matter what our skin color. Because Americans have that unique baggage called Slavery, which was here, on our soil, and actually written into our Constitution (not too many Americans even realize that, but that's why we had to pass a series of Amendments after the Civil War, to negate that part of our Constitution which says that a Black man or woman is only equal to 2/3rds of a white man or woman, and is considered to be chattel property). Bob

11/7/08 Thanks for the history lesson Bob. It's probably true that we would find it hard to relate to the suffering of the African slaves who were brought to America as we have not experienced it directly. Interstingly though, the Birmingham Russell ancestors of mine (at least I think they were mine) owned plantations in the Caribbean and had slaves of which at least one was brought back to England and buried at Rowley Regis from where my Russells came. Roy.

(end of email chain)

It was that last bit from Roy that "broadened my horizons" on the impact of Obama's election, and now, his innauguration. The above writer is quite correct: the UK is watching US. And so is the rest of the world.

And, relating back to something I think someone else above alluded to, I don't think we will have completed Dr. King's climb to the mountain top until the inauguration of a Black, Latino, Woman, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Gay, etc., President is just simply another innauguration. That is truely the day I look forward to. But I can most definitely feel the cool breeze from that mountain top inspirating my nostrils and making its joyous way toward the too-long dark places of the lungs of my spirit.

Bob

2:38 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Laura, outstanding blog. I feel that our country has grown to a certain extent in the sense of acceptance and appreciation of our diversity since its inception, but still has a ways to go. Following suit, this holiday is still in the developing stages. Every day is a day to learn how to be a better person. This holiday represents that one man truly can make a difference, while still showing that it takes all of us to contribute in order for there to be significant and lasting progress.

I think that personal struggle is just God's way of providing us with opportunity to move to a greater and higher level so that we can fulfill our true propose for being here on earth. I know that I have learned some of my best and longlasting lessons from personal struggles. The same can be said for this nation's struggles in dealing with our history. If dealt with and dealt with properly, we can be and will be a greater nation and a great people as a whole, thus making a better world.

Johnnie
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

10:03 PM  

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