Childhood Memories of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I write this on Dr. King’s Holiday 2021. Whenever I think of Dr. King and the legacy he left, I am just astounded by how far we as a country have stepped backward from what Dr. King championed. I hope our nation would just pause for a few moments and go back into history and see what Dr. King stood for, what he wrote, what he said, and what he preached. There’s no doubt in my mind that Dr. King loved Jesus and viewed our nation through the lens of Scripture during his tumultuous times.

I was in the second grade when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. I remember coming home from school, Lafayette School. We were still living on 530 S. Sutter St., in Stockton, CA, within walking distance of the train station. The first thing I’d do when I got home was to turn on the television to watch cartoons and maybe an episode or two of the Three Stooges. Yes, this was before the World Wide Web and cable tv. This was regular tv hooked to an antenna. I needed my daily dose of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies with Captain Mitch to officially end my school day.

All of the sudden, a special news bulletin interrupted the cartoons. It may have been an ABC News Special Bulletin. A voice officially announced that Dr. King was gunned down at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Further details were forthcoming. It certainly put a damper on any further cartoon viewing.

I vaguely remember riots going on down Main St. My uncles were talking about it. Po Po, my grandmother, lived a few blocks away from Main St. That’s where all of the stores were located. I remember vaguely my uncles saying to avoid downtown until all the violence subsided. I didn’t personally witness any of the hysteria that took place.

This was Stockton before the Weberstown Mall or any other mall. On Saturdays, downtown Stockton was bustling with people, shopping and dining, enjoying the weekend. When I drive down that section of Stockton nowadays, it breaks my heart to see how downtown Stockton has lost its former glory of days gone by.

The other memory that Dr. King triggers in me was the first time I attended summer school. The summer after kindergarten, Mom enrolled me in summer school at McKinley School, which was located at the southern edge of Stockton. In my mind, it was on the way to French Camp, but I digress. I was bussed to summer school because McKinley was not within walking distance from home.

I vividly remember this African-American lady welcoming a whole bunch of kids my age and me to her class. This must’ve been the summer of 1966 or 1967 (The Summer of Love, for some of you older hippies). She was a nice and friendly lady, with a big smile. She wasn’t young, but she wasn’t of grandma age.

She had us sitting cross-legged on the rug and started talking about a melting pot. Mind you, I just got out of kindergarten and this whole issue about melting pots was foreign to me. I’d seen and heard about cooking pots, where Po Po would boil a whole chicken and cut it up for dinner; but when it came to a melting pot, this lady had lost me.

As I look back, what this summer school teacher was trying to instill in was the idea of America as a melting pot of races. We all come from different cultural background and ethnicities, but the one thing that ties us together as a people is America, land of the free and the home of the brave. This teacher was caught up in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in a positive way, not in a divisive manner. I think she saw the good in Dr. King and the Movement and tried to pass it on to us. I can’t speak for my classmates at that time, but she certainly passed it on to me.

Whenever Dr. King’s holiday occurs, or if someone mentions Dr. King to me, these childhood memories flood my mind. Dr. King left us a legacy to appreciate and to follow. God used him to show us how much better we can be as a people and anation. May we take a moment and view our nation through his eyes, and may God remind us of what is engraved in courtrooms across this country: In God We Trust.

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