April 4, 1968. I was in the first grade. Time has dimmed my memory but I can still see my mother entering my classroom, taking me by the hand and whisking me home. Later, I discovered Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. Riots had broken out at many of the schools in town and rumors swirled that violence was going to overtake the entire city, as it had happened in other parts of the country. The frustration, rage and grief of a people lit the country on fire.
The following year, as I readied myself for school, my mother thrust a black turtleneck at me announcing that I would be wearing the shirt to school. I hated turtlenecks and protested. My older sister, ever the diplomat, explained that it was “Wear Black Day” at school and if I didn’t wear the shirt, I’d be beaten by my classmates. Needless to say, I wore the shirt. I wish my mother had told me that I was wearing the shirt to honor Dr. King. Perhaps then the gesture would have had meaning. As it was, I spent the entire day tugging at the shirt, scratching my neck, and wondering why I was the only kid wearing black on “Wear Black Day.”
Read complete article here