In His Light: A moment for reflection and remembrance

January 15, 2013

My father died 18 days before my 11th birthday in August of 1964. I am blessed to still possess fond memories shared between the two of us before his demise at the age of 54. In my reflection and remembering, I discovered that many of those memories encompassed some historical events. I recall fighting off sleep the night of Nov. 8, 1960 as we, along with the world, watched anxiously to discover if America was going to elect “a son of Ireland,” its first Roman Catholic president. I am not sure if my dad was more excited at the election of President John F. Kennedy because he was a Roman Catholic or because of my dad’s ideology of being a “Yellow Dog Democrat!”

My most emotional memory was when the news broke the morning of Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963 that four little Negro girls had been murdered by a bomb while attending Sunday School classes at a Birmingham, Ala., church. One 11 year-old and three 14-year-olds were massacred while studying the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. I can still recall my dad not ‘crying’ but ‘lamenting’ over the unconscionable death of what he described as ‘babies!’ My dad fathered five sons and one of his dreams was to have a daughter of his own. Instead, he experienced one of the most hideous nightmares he and our nation as ever encountered, the slaughtering of four innocent children while studying the virtues and spiritual fulfillment of being a Christian. I was only a child of 10 myself; however, I could sense the loss in my dad’s face and that of his inner being that one of those precious gifts from his Creator could have been one of his own.

One of my final cherished moments was watching on television the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, only one day before my 10th birthday, the last birthday my dad would celebrate with me. This August 28th will mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech that will be remembered and treasured throughout the ages.

This April 16th will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King penning of his masterful narrative “The Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Dr. King wrote the letter in the margins of a newspaper (the only paper available to him) while incarcerated for his participation in a protest march. The letter was a response to a statement by several Alabama clergymen who questioned his movement. Dr. King would secretly give the scribbled notes to his aides who in turn took the literary fragments back to their headquarters where they were gathered and composed to create what would become the treatise for The American Civil Rights Movement. 

This weekend our nation comes together once again to reflect and remember the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is also a new year, a time for remembrance and reflection of our past and a sense of renewed hope for our future. May our prayer during this Year of Faith be an end of partiality and intolerance and a long reign of peace always “In His Light.”

Deacon Leonard Paul Lockett is the vicar for Catholics of African Descent.