Death is Part of Life – My Life in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. gave us hope in a vision that we would be accepted into the “Promise Land of Creative Integration” as shared by Andrew Young in the documentary King in the Wilderness. Whether one feels integration was the right direction or not, the hope was for Freedom and Equality, and for Black People to become masters of our destiny beyond the prison of Jim Crow South and the more covert racism and systemic suppression in the North. Dr. King laid down his life to see Civil Rights legislation enforced although he began to realize that his dream had “become a nightmare” leading his people into a “burning house”. On January 6th, 2021, the “Make America Great Again” movement sieged the US Capitol in flames of insurrection.
I love the fact that there is a day to honor the birth of Dr. King. This year had a freshness of satisfying irony seeing as how Arizona, the last state to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a National Holiday, was flipped Blue in efforts to remove the White Supremacist stain from the White House. Whether a Republican or Democrat in office, Black Lives have been taken at the hands of the police sworn to protect and serve our communities. The World watched when a White Police officer, possessed with a spirit of disdain and entitlement, pressed his knee on the neck of a Black Man, George Floyd, who peacefully gave up his life. This sparked a dormant flame with a diverse cry for the breath of freedom and justice. The match was lit between the two parties when the country united around the idea that “Black Lives Matter”.
The Fruit of The Movement Bares Its Seeds
Our Black Parents, married or not, had hope in the movement led by a courageous and determined King. The emphasis on self-value and community building that he preached inspired many to organize at such a pivotal time in America. In this space, all types of new relationships formed and some grew into a more personal connection that produced offspring seeding the promised future.
My mother and father met while organizing around efforts to rebuild the Black community after the Watts Riots on August 11th,1965. The Watts Summer Festival of 1966 was the answer to “Burn Baby Burn” chants that rang out as a pro-riot cry of the unheard demands for change and opportunity. It was a collaborative effort between the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Rights and key leaders of the Black Power movement like Ron Karenga, now known as Maulana Karenga the father of Kwanzaa Celebration of Black Culture through the 7 Principles of Nguzo Saba. The Miss Watts Beauty Contest was the main event of the festival. Karenga encouraged my Mother to enter the contest fully embracing her African Culture as a reflection of Black Beauty. 300 beautiful Black Women entered the contest, my Mother, Tamu Harper, was the only contestant who fashioned a short Afro and African print and was crowned 1st Miss Watts of 1966.
The honor to carry this title positioned Tamu Harper as an ambassador and model of Black is Beautiful throughout the Los Angeles Black community. She met my Father, a distinguished Black Man, Emmit “Pinky” Briggs, who was one of the few Black Architects working for the City of Los Angeles managing the Urban Renewal plan for post-riot revitalization. Their brief connection around community organizing resulted in planting the seed that gave me life. My father died when I was 2 years old, although I never really knew him, I recognize and honor the parts of him that manifest within me. I AM one of those seeds of the movement blossoming into a Lotus Flower yet fully perceived by the world.
When the Seed is Planted, Life Continues
I was born January 2, 1968, and King was born January 15, 1929, both Capricorns, the goat that charts a trail up a mountain that has never been climbed, making way for those to follow a new path. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, on my Mother’s birthday, 3 months after I was born. Imagine the energy of pain my mother felt while nursing me to hear breaking news that Dr. King was dead. The joy my Mother experienced while holding her seed of love and hope in her arms, was overshadowed by the pain of losing the symbol of her faith in the movement which contributed to her being Black and Proud.
I AM a direct beneficiary of the programs that were born out of the Civil Rights movement and America’s best effort to give Black people a chance towards integration through Affirmative Action and other policies implemented in California. My mother took full advantage of those programs to educate herself and expose me to opportunities that would fulfill her hopes and dreams for my life.
Life’s Transformative Experiences
I attended college at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in Radio, Television, and Film. I envisioned (God-Given Vision) that one day, print, film, and music would be brought together in one technology. At the time there were no programs for multimedia production, so I created my own curriculum. Because of my forethought and education, I became a highly paid professional producing new technologies in emerging industries. One of which was my role as a Production Specialist for Warner Brothers Home Entertainment contributing to the creation of the DVD Industry in 1996. To my credit, I worked on the award-winning, The Matrix DVD, the first integration of web-enhanced feature content by finding the “White Rabbit”. Today, CSUN has one of the world’s standard Multi-Media Production departments, and in 2020 they revived the department with a new name and curriculum called Emerging Media Production.
While a Senior in college, there was a Seismic Shift that changed my Life Path. On Martin Luther King’s National Holiday January 17, 1994, was the difference between Life and Death. At 4:31 AM, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit San Fernando, California. I lived a couple of blocks from the epicenter. As I slept in my waterbed, the violent quake caused the water to toss me around making it difficult to take cover. Over my lifetime, I’ve lived through many major quakes but this was the biggest ever! It took the lives of 57 people, leveled many apartment buildings in the area, and highways collapsed throughout the city miles away.
Once it was safe to go outside to survey the damages, I noticed my car was parked alongside my apartment building next to my bedroom window wedged between a brick wall. This brick wall was the only thing holding up the apartment building next door that would have fallen into my bedroom and crushed me. It was obvious, God had other plans for my life.
God preserved the seed of the future planted in me that has grown as wheat amidst the tare for such a time as this, living in American. In Matthew 13:24-30 The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, there is a message for those of us conceived under the vision of all the movements during the ‘60s. There is also a perspective-shifting our reality that no longer supports fear, hate, oppression, bigotry, misogyny, and racism bound up in the audacity of supremacy.
I honor Dr. King by living my Life with the Purpose to impact the Evolution of Humanity. Inspired by Dr. King’s commitments and philosophies, the seed that was planted during his lifetime germinated in my life through my very own commitment to the Black community. There is a complete picture of Black Unity as a force if we balance the philosophies of our great leaders from Dr. King, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Dr. Sebi, to Nipsey Hussle and beyond. We Live Free, by defining our Afrofuturism for ourselves and breaking through mental constructs that shape our vision of reality; constructs we were born into that are not necessarily our own. I dare to bridge what was, with what is, opening the door to what is yet to come into BEingness.
I AM the co-founder and CEO of Detroit Dream Investment Solutions where we encourage national Black Investment as part of the collective responsibility to revitalize Detroit Neighborhoods, one of the last majority Black cities in America. Detroit Dream IS the conduit through which I am making my vision a reality.
My seed of hope is to inspire similar sentiments in the forthcoming generations just as I too was inspired by the leaders who have come before me. When the seed is planted, life continues…