Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We are all in this together

I attended many events this last week as part of the commemoration of Martin Luther King’s Holiday Celebration. Denver does more than any other city in the country to celebrate and teach us about Dr. King. I was reminded again how we are all tied together in the struggle for racial equality.

The Blair Caldwell Library hosted a reception on Saturday evening for the Commission which oversees the King events. The library currently houses the Abraham Lincoln Exhibit commemorating his 250th anniversary. Earlier I copied a copy of Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby of Boston who gave five sons to the war effort. Some say Lincoln did not write the letter, but its eloquence could only be Lincoln’s own. My letter is in the last cabinet on the south wall on the second floor. I wrote it on home-made paper with home-made ink made from gall nuts and iron the recipe from Lincoln’s time. Claudette Francois Sweet told me at the reception that when she saw the letter and she mentioned to herself that “Lincoln’s handwriting looked like Dennis Gallagher’s.” I hope you will visit the library to view the exhibit.

Saturday the ‘Marade’ in King’s honor got off to a great start down Colfax to Civic Center. Thousands and thousands of people marched. And speakers reminded us that King died fighting for the rights of union garbage workers in Memphis and there were lots of union workers there to march as well. The weather blessed us this year compared to two years ago when everyone froze. Vern Howard mentioned there was talk two years ago of cancelling due to the cold. Howard responded that Dr. King took years to get civil rights for all of us and we could surely spend a couple of hours in the cold. Recordings of Dr. King played before the hour long speeches and singing began.

Monday evening The Stock Show presented its usual MLK Rodeo featuring many African-American riders and performers. The show reminded us of the roots of African-Americans in Colorado and the West. Many African-Americans served in the army and the west as one can discover at the Black West Museum, one of the best kept secrets in Denver. More Europeans visit the library than Americans. Let’s turn that around this year. We are all tied together in this.

I thought of the Irish the last week. Signs in windows in New England greeted their arrival on the shores of America: “Help Wanted, No Irish Need Apply.” As Noel Ignatiev in his book reports when the Irish went south to work on plantations the owners told the slaves, “If there is anything dangerous to be done, let the ‘paddies’ do it.” He records one slave owner writing in his journal the prayer of a slave pleading with the Lord to not let his master treat him as though he was Irish.

These stories put it into perspective for us. As Martin Luther King said, in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” we are all inextricably tied together in this struggle.

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