Culture & Communications, Grief & Loss

Is America Still Grieving the Loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ?

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We’re ever mindful of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today as well as everyday. The fortitude and great courage displayed under fire to lead a nation into freedom and awareness of self was impeccable. For those that were present on this Earth during the time of his assassination,  I pause to write this post for you.

Is America still grieving the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

President Obama eloquently stated at the passing of Nelson Mandela that Mandela does not belong to us, he belongs to the ages. This statement rings true for many who are going through the grieving process. How do we present our loved ones to the ages, a place where there is no reach until death? The process and stages associated with presenting that loved one to the ages is grief (the acknowledgement that our loved ones are no longer among us.)

I wonder how you approached the grief on that low day on April 4, 1968 at 6:10 pm when time stood still for the nation and the world it sits in. For many, the hope of a nation froze like an ice cube in a tray wondering how we as a nation would move forward creating progress towards a more perfect union between races, religions, and genders. How many Marches on Washington have been held to promote peace, how many movements and sit-ins have been established to break the mold on injustice since that time?

Disappointment and grief are two cousins that can knock a person off of their feet. It is like an unwanted house guest that you want to leave and are not certain of the duration of time for their visit. Long after television announcement such as an assassination of a leader has been published, what happens to the hope of the people who vested all of their hope in forward progress? Have their hope dried up like a raisin in the sun? withered like grass? turned into a state of surviving rather than thriving? provoked courage in the face of fear or a screaming settling to accept the current circumstances of this life? Many have said, including my parents, that Dr. Martin Luther King’s mark in their lives was huge and they would not be able to have certain privileges without his contribution and the favor of God on his life.

Think about your approach to grief. I know that we’ve lost loved ones far greater than the relationship of a leader such as Mandela or Dr. Martin Luther King, but looking back at the approach you took once you heard the news of Dr. King’s assassination, where you satisfied with the steps of grief you went through and your approach to it? Where are you today and how have you changed?

For anyone that has gone through the loss of a loved one would say that grief is a refining fire that burns but when you come through it, your perspective is fortified with a great strength that provides peace and courage, an unshakable courage to approach life fearless because you have already loss in life, yet you are alive, and equipped to move forward in peace that your loved one is at peace. Grief is complex, peaceful,  speechless, and confusing all at the same time.

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How do you choose to remember and celebrate the legacy of Dr. King today? While some capitalize on legacy photo shopping Dr. King in a twerkin contest for their club (SAD) or him rocking a gold chain (c’mon people), we could be taking the time to organize coalitions or assisting the efforts of the NAACP in getting clarity about their vision now in 2014 where we have a multiplicity of issues that affect us individually and collectively like mental health and the agonizing reality of how prolonged grief is impacting our race due to the misconceptions that we hold concerning distrust in mental health providers, how religion and our devout love for God keeps us wrapped up tightly in denial that we are acquiring pain but not releasing it. Dr. King’s Day brings us together in harmony yearly for fellowship but should we be galvanizing our communities expanding the vision rather than continuing to celebrate the legacy that froze in 1968? Hear me well, I honor Dr. King and have the highest admiration for his family, but am always challenging myself to do more. I love how every YouTube video of Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. King, always encourages us to move forward and advance the dream of her father.

So now that many years have gone by and you’ve reflected on how you have processed your grief over the years, how have you made personal change in your life and contributed to the lives of your community?  Creating social and environmental change begins with a choice and a decision to make something of the surroundings that we live in. Giving up and caving in will never resolve issues. If you are disappointed with where the nation is since the death of Dr. King, stop and ask yourself what are you doing to make a difference?

I love community organizing and my time as one in Pittsburgh working with hopeless people who could not see past their current circumstance and surrounding. It is amazing what a cup of coffee and some jazz can do for letting people know that they are not stuck with a memory of Dr. King. No…No. His legacy is very much alive and lives in each one of us. Just as the people of South Africa may be grieving the loss of Mandela, although they have a capable president, they can not erase the effort  and contributions that were made under his leadership. The blueprint that they choose to leave in life will be inspired by his legacy. We too, should do the same. Marches may not be effective, but social media is. What topic are you passionate about? How can you share your story with the masses. Today in honor of the legacy of Dr. King, let this be the day that you draw the line in the sand and move yourself forward to progress, doing something rather than talking about the endless possibilities of it. If Mandela can rise from prisioner to president and Dr. King from minister to global agent for change, what will your story be?

be encouraged……….

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Relationships

The Front Porch: The Waiting Room by Danita Ogandaga

Front porches are so quaint and serve as a beautiful introduction to a home. I like to think of front porches as a waiting room of sort. Some overflowing with rocking chairs and plants and some bear with a single chair. I am sure that many people have had an awesome experience in life while sitting on the porch. For those friends of mine that may be from various sections of the world, the porch is defined as a structure attached to the exterior of a building often forming a covered entrance. The definition is solid but does no justice for the cultural symbolism that a porch holds for the American and their front porch. The porch fosters an amazing connection between nature and land, safety and security, the level of control one has between the world and the domain of his or her home.

Formation of Community- Growing up on Desmond Street in Kinston, North Carolina was an amazing experience. To the left of my street would be the Koonce, Dillahunt, and Platt families and to the right of me would be the Rhem, King, and Smith families. Whether the weather was cold or hot, you could be sure that at some point of the day, you would have a member of those family members sitting on that porch. Before I could even walk, my mother and my father would always encourage me to greet my neighbors when coming out of the house and getting into the car. The idea of offering a greeting was a sign of respect and reverence for the neighbors who assisted in creating community on my street.

Porches have been creating venues for socialization for many years which has lead to the formation of community. I remember the farmers coming into town stopping on my street and watching my mom go to the porch to purchase her vegetables and fruits. There were times when my father would give the payment for our life insurance policy to the agent….on the porch. We would venture off of our porch and walk to the porch of our new neighbors who moved into the community. The porch was the holding space that fostered much opportunity to building lasting friendships; building familiarity beyond the sidewalk and not yet achieving the intimacy of entering the house. It was overall, a healthy balance of a new beginning.

Nurturing the Psychiatric Core- My parents were ministers, so I was a PK (Preacher’s Kid) two times over. Still, I witnessed several occasions where my parents would counsel married couples, engaged couples, and family issues on the porch. The furniture on the porch got a lot of wear and tear from our family as we would use the porch as a common ground to air the issues were facing as a family in addition to celebrating the positive moments like birthdays, holidays, and other events.

Families use the porch as a common ground to resolve issues about which kid knocked the hose over and how it would be resolved. The porch was a civil arena where people could come with no reservations to establish a non-threatening environment for creative resolutions to making everything better. Bringing the neighborhood and the community together and provoking opportunities to invoke awareness and prompt care, the porches of the world, whether public or private, are a waiting room for change.

This weekend, my family and I were engaged in our weekend activities which included the following, to name a few:

Visiting family members for Tally to play with her cousins
Taking a trip to our International Farmer’s Market
Business meetings with clients
Courting at our local cafe
Walking a trail at our local park
Checking out or returning books at our local library

In the midst of doing all of this traveling and back and forth, while out visiting our Aunt and Uncle in the northern part of Georgia, we realized that while attempting to get to their home early, we were locked out and did not want to wait in the car. So instead of complaining, we just took the time to take the funny pictures, get in sneezing matches due to the pollen affects, sing our favorite songs, and just look into each other’s eyes and just be……one, with each other. It was such an awesome experience to be able to take the time to star gaze into each other’s eyes…..that was until we realized that the door was open and our Aunt and Uncle had entered the house from the rear and had been waiting for us to come in for about twenty minutes! It was hilarious, but the time we spent on that pollen- filled porch was priceless!

Enjoy your family; enjoy your porch!