Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a meet and greet with Dr. Bernard Lafayette, one of the greatest Civil Rights Activists. He is a living legacy and icon, a man who stood alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for equal rights. Highly involved in the integration of interstate bus routes in the 60’s, this man risked his life in hopes of changing the south and became a Freedom Rider at only 15 years old. Being from Tampa, he took pride in his visit here which gave room for a deeper sense of passion to arise within myself. His story literally changed American history! While sharing his journey with me, I couldn’t help but think of the senseless violence that continues to happen in our own communities. My heart breaks at the thought of racially invoked cruelty and the discrimination that is prevalent still today. What hurts even more is that Dr. Lafayette’s efforts are far too often forgotten. We think of that time as “history” when in fact we are still living it.
Listening to the horrific memories, ones which the history books fail to highlight, about being viciously attacked in Alabama with unimaginable weapons such as baseball bats and bricks, chains and garden tools, made me reevaluate my position in the progression of unity and love. This man, standing in front of me, talking to ME, was with Martin Luther King Jr. just moments before he was assassinated. This man, standing before me, talking to ME, had hits out on his life to make a statement. This man, standing before me, talking to ME, left his family and risked his life because he had hope. Hope. If I can do anything to acknowledge his dream, it would be to carry hope into the lives of young people today.
We live in a nation that does not have hope. We are full of anger and quick tempered. We have lost the ability to love, while being hated. Admiring fake dreams of living unrealistic lifestyles portrayed through music and TV has come in and corrupted our society. We look to be noticed through bullying and violence rather than love and forgiveness. We have forgotten the sacrifices endured by people who dreamt of changing OUR generation. The time is now, THIS generation needs to change the way we think. Dr. Lafayette shared a quote that was so powerful, yet is lacking in the minds of our young people today. He said, “Real courage is not holding your gun; Real courage is holding your temper”. While being senselessly beaten, ridiculed, and hated, Dr. Bernard Lafayette was determined to hold on to hope and love when he had nothing else to give. He continued to show sensitivity to injustice and ignorance and accepted people for who they were. We MUST choose to do the same. We must learn to forgive. We must learn to let go.
Caring about others is caring yourself.
i Care About Me.