From The Files (Letter)
My name is Bianca, preferably Akua - yes, I'm one of those that began using an African name in the 60s and 70s and then when the movement died in the Washington area, became Bianca again, and am now moving back in time - if I ever left the 60s at all.
Yes, as an African American I know the identity crisis very well. I am a writer. I'm a mother. I'm a black woman searching. Nuff said about that.
On Sunday July 25th 1998, I had the opportunity to attend the installation of Martin Luther King III as the next president of the national chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The installation took place at Jericho City of Praise in Landover, Md. This particular church is located in a very key spot in Prince George's County, Md.
For the benefit of those that are unfamiliar with the Washington Metro area. The city of Washington, D.C. was created primarily out of farm land that was once a part of a very rural, tobacco producing, slave-intensive region that was sympathetic to the slave south during the Civil War. The majority population was African American slaves who tended the tobacco farms of the gentleman planters. After emancipation, Black people migrated out of the county to the extent that the population of African Americans decreased to around 20 percent. The success of the Civil Rights movement led to laws that strengthened housing and job opportunities in the metro area, and Black people in droves began to migrate back into the country. The population is now 70 percent African-American.
Jericho City of Praise sits smack in the center of the Landover area, a very densely populated community that is nearly all Black. It is a combination of low-income housing that is surrounded by newer developments of high-priced housing developments extending north, central and south. The church seats ten thousand members. The only building larger than the church complex is the newly constructed Jack Kent Cooke Stadium - that is located next door. Jericho City of Praise is an awesome sight.
The central road - Landover Road stretches from the Patuxent River in Upper Marlboro, Md. all the way into Washington, D.C. It was an important travel route during the 1800s as it led from the slave markets at Bladensburg to Upper Marlboro which is the county seat.
Sitting in the church watching the the King Family and dignitaries such as Rev. Andrew Young, Bro. Gregory, activist Dorothy Cotton, Thurgood Marshall Jr. , Rev. Fred Shuttleswoth and many many others, I felt the presence of history in the moment.
Prince George's County is home to the most affluent and prosperous African American community in the country and yet, it is struggling with the same issues as neighborhing Washington, D.C. and other major metro areas around the nation.
Mayor Marion Barry had some of the most eloquent things to say, particularly regarding how far we've come in this country and how far we've yet to go. And he also had some of most hunbling and real comments I've heard in a very long time. And he shared the stories of his experiences as a SNCC activists. It was awesome.
Rev. Bernice King was perhaps the most moving in her tribute to her brother, and she advised him that when the burdens become too much remember W.W.J.D. - What Would Jesus Do.
Rev. Andrew Young was perhaps the most pragmatic in shaping the reality of what Martin III has yet to face. He advised that no one really knows the full extent of what the brother was about to face - but he also let him know that it was the same for the veterans of the movement.
However, Martin III noted most eloquently - that he owes this moment in history to sacrifices of many people and he is simply taking up the mantel and carrying it on. There is no way I can adequately recount the event. It was something to see. However, in that place in that moment - I could sense what is possible, inspite of what is - and that was a moment that in many ways transcended geographical place - no matter what part of the globe we exist in.
I imagined the slaves being marched from Bladensburg to Upper Marlboro from the mid 1700s to the 1865 - and as I looked up at the King family - my soul truly truly wondered how we got over.
People of the African diaspora are awesome - in that moment I felt it.
Bianca - peace and blessings
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