Of all the messages scrawled or printed on signs at Saturday’s March on Washington, this yellow, homemade sign struck a major chord with me. “Love is too big to fail” perfectly embodies the spirit of the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic message 50 years ago.
Hearing the speeches and feeling the unity and love at Saturday’s march left me motivated to be better and do better.
Watching snippets of today’s news reports as several U.S. presidents and King family members stood in the spot where Dr. King and others stood on Aug. 28, 1963 made we want to be better and do better.
Sharing the experience of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with my 23-year-old daughter made me want to be better and do better.
Imani and I decided more than a month ago to attend the march together. She was still reeling from the not guilty verdict handed down by a Florida jury in the death of Trayvon Martin. For Imani and others in her generation, this verdict served as a wake-up call that even in 2013, black men are often marginalized and criminalized.
For me, the march was about reconnecting with the spirit of our ancestors, who were willing to die for their convictions. People like Congressman John Lewis, who told his mother that he was acting according to the dictates of his conscience when he decided to join the Freedom Rides in 1961 as a young college student.
The day of the march, I got up at the crack of dawn, too excited to sleep. People were already gathering outside our hotel to march to the National Mall. By the time we arrived around 8 a.m., the mall was already jammed with people. And what a sight to behold: people of all ages and races coming together, talking to one another and smiling broadly. The pride was evident. We came together in peace and harmony. There were people on walkers, children in strollers and people carrying gigantic signs promoting labor unions; decrying racial profiling and calling for an end to discrimination. Images of Trayvon Martin were everywhere — on shirts, caps and signs.
As the march was winding down, we ran into Sheri Morgan, who was carrying the “Love is Too Big to Fail” sign. Her son Thomas made it three years ago for the Occupy Movement. Thomas, now a college student in Los Angeles, got into social justice when he was middle school. He memorized Dr. King’s speeches and often quoted them in their Greencastle, Pa. home.
Dr. King’s message of non violence was rooted in the biblical principle of loving your enemies. His models were Jesus Christ and Mahatma Ghandi. On more than one occasion, the students and adults trained in non-violent social resistance shocked their tormentors.
The late Pauline Knight-Ofosu was a student at Tennessee State when she decided to join the Nashville Student Movement in 1960. She believed God called her and other students for that purpose. When a young man spat on her during one of the protests, she wiped it off and smiled back at him.
Her action so disarmed him he felt true shame at his act. Now if that’s not love too big to fail, I don’t know what is.
This column is dedicated to the memory of my friend, Pauline Knight-Ofosu, who died in March. We miss you terribly Miss Pauline. Rest in Peace!