Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

martin-luther-king-jr-injustice-anywhere

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

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Links to digital resources on the life of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement:

Having a Blue Christmas

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitaPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitaPhotos.net

As I noted in last week’s Wacky Wednesday post, I love Christmas, especially the decorations. But I understand that this time of year is not always joyful. In fact, there were times when I’ve had a “Blue Christmas” rather than “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” My Christmas wish was to be on a cruise to the Caribbean rather than sitting at home alone in my apartment, listening to sad songs and watching fictional characters make merry on television.

Feelings of loneliness are often compounded during Christmas, and it is just one of the reasons that the holidays can be difficult. On Sunday I called my mother, who I usually talk to daily, and discovered that she had been deep into her “holiday blues” for a couple of days. She hadn’t called because she didn’t want to burden me. She feared that she would make me sad as well.

For my mother, this season reminds her of the people she loves who have passed away, especially her parents. Both of her parents died in December, although it was years apart. I was only two-years-old when my grandfather died, so I can’t remember him or his death. But my grandmother’s death is etched in my memory, even though I was living hundreds of miles away when it happened. She died December 26, 1995.

On December 25, just as my grandmother, my mother, and their guests were about to sit down to Christmas dinner, my grandmother had a severe pain in her head which turned out to be a stroke. She was conscious as the paramedics were putting her into the ambulance, and that was right about the time that I called home. I was on my way to work that day, but I wanted to find out how Grandma liked my present.

She was in the emergency room for hours while doctors tried to lower her blood pressure, which was skyrocketing. According to my mother, however, they never really provided much treatment. Eventually, later that night, they released her. As my mother was driving Grandma home, she screamed and slumped over. My mother rushed her back to the hospital. Grandma had experienced a cerebral hemorrhage; she slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. She was taken off life support the following day.

My mother feels things very deeply, so I understand how this season affects her. But I chastised her for not calling me. (Even though we live in different states, we are constantly in touch.) I am sure that not talking to anyone only deepens her feelings of aloneness and sadness.

There are so many people who are hurting during this time of year. I have opened this window into my world because I think it is an important topic. Please reach out to family and friends who may be having a hard time. And if you are sad, blue, melancholy, or depressed, you are certainly not alone. Reach out to your family and friends. Let them know how you are feeling. And if your depression is really serious, do not be too proud or afraid to see a counselor.

Happy Holidays? Feeling Conflicted about Thanksgiving

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“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock was landed on us.” ~ Malcolm X

Last Wednesday, I posted a message that we, at 2 Dope Sistahs, were on holiday. I wished everyone “a happy and safe holiday weekend.” I was originally going to write “Happy Thanksgiving,” with the graphic above, but I just couldn’t bring myself to post that.

In my family, we have never embraced the traditional, sanitized version of the first Thanksgiving in 1621. And there certainly has never been anyone at our house dressed as a Native American or even a Pilgrim. I have considered it a time to take a break from classes; to catch up on work; to visit and spend time with family; and to enjoy an excellent, extremely fattening home-cooked meal.

In years past, my Thanksgiving was also tempered by attending a roundtable called “Thanks-taking,” sponsored by American Indian Studies at my alma mater. I know that for many Indigenous people, this holiday is considered a Day of Mourning to commemorate the struggles of their ancestors and to provide a counter-narrative to the mythology of Thanksgiving through (re-)education.

As a historian, I am constantly engaged in “myth-busting.” Perhaps that is why I am  conflicted about Thanksgiving. I have similar feelings about Independence Day, which I usually refer to as “The Fourth.” The American Revolution did not bring freedom to enslaved African-Americans. Although I enjoy a good fireworks show as much as anyone else, the Declaration of Independence did not apply to my ancestors. In fact, the Constitution acknowledged the rights of slaveholders and made sure that Americans could continue to import additional African slaves until 1808. So, on the The Fourth I wake up and read Frederick Douglass’ What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.

So, what is the answer? How can socially aware people celebrate this holiday of thanksgiving that also symbolizes genocide, war, enslavement, land appropriation, and forced conversions to Native People? I will continue the tradition of fellowship and food. Aside from that, I think the answers are education and open dialogue. We must begin to acknowledge our complicated history by listening to the voices of people that have often been marginalized.

In 1970, Wamsutta James, a Wampanoag man, was prevented from giving his intended speech at the 350th anniversary celebration of the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts because it was considered “inflammatory.” Why don’t we start the dialogue there?