[Ohio-talk] What A Memory

Smith, JW smithj at ohio.edu
Wed Apr 4 16:35:42 UTC 2018

Fifty years ago today, I sat in my grandparents' bedroom watching the only television in the house with my family. It was a small set and we were watching an episode of the show Bewitched. I do not remember the episode, but I do remember that about halfway through the show, an announcer broke in and said, "I am sorry to have to tell you that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in Memphis, Tennessee tonight." I remember as a nine-year-old child hearing the audible gasps of the adults, and then about 15 minutes later, another announcer said, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died tonight".

I was raised on the south side of Chicago in a very eclectic and diverse neighborhood and the houses were very close together. In fact, in some cases, you could almost reach out of the window of one house and touch your neighbor's house. It was a warm evening and most windows were opened, including ours, and I shall never forget the cries and the moans of my neighbors after the announcement of Dr. King's assassination. Most of the neighborhood gathered in the street, held hands, and comforted each other. There was such anguish and sadness that you could have cut with a knife. The next day, we were dismissed from school because of all of the violence in Chicago and we were told to kneel on the seats of our school buses in an attempt to avoid the random and rampant shooting that was occurring. I remember the National Guard in my neighborhood with machine guns set up on the corners of our streets. I shall never forget these memories and I shall never forget Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because of his voice, vision, and his commitment to his cause.

Some will argue that we have yet to reach the Promised Land that he spoke about in his prophetic speech the night before his assassination, and still others would argue that his dream never came true, but as I sit here in my office at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio a blind and black boy from the south side of Chicago, I firmly believe that Dr. King would be proud of just how far we have come in many ways. Keep in mind, that during his lifetime, he had to endure separate but equal status of Americans, whites only swimming pools, park benches, bathrooms, water fountains, and even lunch counters. If a black person was walking down the sidewalk and a white person was approaching them, it was expected that the black person would step off of the sidewalk and let the white person pass, even if the streets were muddy and filled with puddles. I choose today to keep dreaming and to keep marching toward that Promised Land that Dr. King both saw and made reality.


Dr. jw Smith
School of Communication Studies
Scripps College of Communication
Ohio University
Schoonover Center, Rm. 401
Athens, OH 45701
smithj at ohio.edu<mailto:smithj at ohio.edu>
T: 740-593-4838

If you see someone today without a smile, why don't you give them one of yours?

My Bio<http://www.ohiocommstudies.com/people/smith/>

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