BY ISAAC NEWTON FARRIS JR.
Unfortunately I never met the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but fortunately, the man I did meet was Uncle M. L. (short for Martin Luther), the name he was referred to by his parents, siblings, family and friends as he was growing up to become Dr King.
During his lifetime, I was too young to understand or be aware of the societal injustices that were surrounding me, and certainly too young to comprehend his great dream for America, or his nonviolent philosophy as an instruction manual on how to live one’s life.
My memories are of a guy I used to play with — a man that I would curiously notice during the hours of family time at the annual Thanksgiving dinner who would slip away to another room to get a quick nap. It would be years before I could appreciate how the mantle of his leadership and the weight of his work and travel schedule, was what created the conditions where he desperately needed those quick naps.
I do have a very vague memory or two of him in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist, our family church, but my memories are overwhelmingly of a playful, comical man.
Just as in his work as a man of the cloth and as a human and civil rights leader, Uncle M. L., during his family and friend time, was determined to bring joy, relief and laughter to those surrounding him. Aside from remembering playing with him, I vividly remember the fun effect he had on others. After his assassination, as I grew and learned of his work, I recognized the compassion I saw at home in his work.
As I grew to comprehend his philosophy and meet Dr King, I realized that one of the true regrets that I have in life is that I was not old enough for us to have worked together, as we played together. I can only imagine how the multitude of citizens — Black and White, male and female, the old and the young, whose names are not held up in the bright lights — enabled him to be the great Dr. King.
I can only imagine how they must feel having been a part of a revolution that not only changed our country but the world. There is a sense of pride when I think about the fact that I share DNA with a guy who precedes me by only one generation; and a guy I actually knew who will have a monument built in his honor in the “A” list section on the mall in the nation’s capital.
I know my fellow African Americans have a sense of pride knowing that a person that looks like them will have a place alongside some of our greatest presidents. But for me, the proudest thing (and I think it would be the proudest thing for Uncle M.L.) is the long-term impact this will have on American society. In the immediate term, the focus will probably center on the fact that this is the first time a monument will be built to honor an African American. In the long term, the more important first-time honor will be that an African American is also recognized and appreciated. In addition, the true point of pride for me is that this monument will be the