Looking Forward, Flashing Back: The RFC at 25 and Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Happy New Year to the entire RFC community! I hope you all are enjoying a good start to 2015 despite the dismal weather and even more depressing national and international news.

This fall marks the RFC’s 25th anniversary. We are planning to honor this milestone in a variety of ways as 2015 unfolds, culminating in a celebration near our office in western Massachusetts in October or November (we’ll share information about our plans a little later this year).

The combination of the new year and our upcoming anniversary has me reflecting on both my tenure at the RFC and our history. One of the lovely parts of my job is that often supporters, Board members, and current or former beneficiaries contact me to share their memories of events, sometimes from long ago, which impacted them in ways that still resonate.

I received one such email from an RFC supporter who explained, “In 1999, I had the privilege of attending a fundraiser for RFC when I was living in Tucson. On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that year, I wrote a letter to my mother about how inspired I was, and thanked her for telling me as a child who Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were, and for raising me to have a lifelong social conscience…. Fifteen years later, I now live in California and I have a personal blog. For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2014, I posted an electronic version of that letter from 1999. I realize now that you might want to see it, so here it is.”

I read her blog and was touched by what she wrote and how my father’s words and her mother’s lessons continue to impact and inform her commitment to social justice so many years later. On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am grateful to her for allowing us to share her thoughts with you:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Lessons from My Mother

Reprinted with permission from http://woodswomanwrites.com/2014/01/20/martin-luther-king-jr-day-lessons-from-my-mother/

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 1999, I reflected on this extraordinary man’s courageous life and wrote a letter to the individual who brought his vision to life for me personally—my mother. Here is an excerpt from the letter written 15 years ago.

January 18, 1999

Dear Mom:

Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m recalling a Detroit evening in 1968. I was 11 years old. I had been out somewhere and don’t remember much about what I’d been doing. It was what happened when I returned home that is still vivid in my memory.

You were crying, a rare thing for me to see as a child. I was immediately concerned, and you told me Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated. I remember details—you sat in the big brown chair. You wanted me to know what happened. When I asked why he was killed, you told me some people are full of hate.

In those days, I barely noticed we were one of the last white families in our Detroit neighborhood, unlike those who had fled the influx of black families. The skin color of our neighbors and friends was so irrelevant that I was stunned when I became aware of how basic day-to-day living was hard for them in a bigoted world.

This weekend, I honored Martin by attending a speech by Robert Meeropol, a fundraiser for the Rosenberg Fund for Children. This incredible organization provides support for children whose activist parents have been targeted. Of course I have known since I was a kid who Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were, and who their son Robert Meeropol is. You made sure when I was growing up that I knew the truth about this family. You consistently informed me about the real, courageous people populating the political landscape.

Right now I hold a mental photo of you that sad night in 1968, pondering as an 11-year-old that you were moved to tears by the death of a man you’d never met. At age 41, I am now as old as you were then, and I recognize you as the source for my life’s work on behalf of children and the earth.

I could no easier cease working toward a better world than I could stop breathing. I am the daughter of the woman for whom Martin’s death was a personal irreplaceable loss, who boycotted grapes and lettuce on behalf of the union organizing efforts and well-being of distant Latino farmworkers, who always made sure I understood that I’d never be a soloist on this planet.

I appreciate many traits I inherited from you, but value most the intangibles. Compassion. Perseverance in the face of injustice. The ability to still laugh in hard times, to notice when others—human or otherwise—are suffering, to know when I am obligated to act.

Robert Meeropol said in his speech: “Where there is tyranny, there is always resistance.” I am forever committed to the resistance. Unequivocally, I learned this was essential first, and best, from you.
 

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Comments

Thankyou for publishing this letter, I too have nearly the same memory of this day only my father was crying and angry at the same time. I was fed on Civil rights and never recognized nor understood the differences people place on skin color. I have been a life long activist and a practicing Nichiren Buddhist who has taken a vow to spread peace and end suffering wherever I see it. Again,thanks for this letter and all the fine work you and your Dad do for this world. With deep appreciation,Lynn fux

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