My friend Greg Schultz posed a question this morning that came up in discussion between his wife Karen and himself. It was around the idea that had they been old enough, would they have marched with Martin Luther King? A few things to know about Greg…he was raised Jewish, he is white guy and he took the Kalachakra vows to become a Buddhist. Greg and his family, who I have known for over 20 years, incorporate their spiritual beliefs into their lives. I’m not certain how Karen and their now adult children would define their own practice, but for many years now, they have hosted monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in their home. These men of prayer, meditation and faith travel around the world and create magnificent sand mandalas and Greg organizes their tour in the Philadelphia area. Greg was also the conduit to my interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2008, an experience for which I will be forever grateful.
I shared with him a story from my life that related to the topic.
It was something my mom told me a few years before she died. When she was 18, she and my grandmother took a bus trip from Philly to Florida. This was in 1942. When they arrived in D.C., the white driver yelled “All you (and he used the ‘N’ word) get to the back of the bus!” My mother stood up and said to my grandmother, “Come on, we’re moving too.” At that, these two white Jewish women, got up and moved back as well. I asked her what the driver said in response. She replied “Nothing.” I asked what the other passengers did. She told me that since this was during WWII, there were a lot of military personnel on the bus and at every stop thereafter, the guys surrounded my mother and grandmother to protect them from potentially angry white passengers. I was so proud of both of them when I heard her tale.
I grew up with parents with active social conscience and it serves me to this day. My father’s focus was more on preventing anti-Semitism and although I wouldn’t say he was a Zionist, the rights of Israel were important to him. I speak out about what I perceive as injustices done to people, animals and the environment. I have a cousin Marilyn who marched for Civil Rights and if memory serves, to end the Viet Nam War. I have marched for the ERA, for LGBTQ rights, environmental concerns and took part in The Great Peace March in 1986 for a few days when the cross country walk came through the Philadelphia area and then on the final day in D.C.
I would like to think that I would have had the courage to stand by Dr. King and those who would have every justification to expect that skin color would not make them exempt from the same basic human rights of education, housing, respect, access to services that anyone would desire.
http://youtu.be/anWx36QPmco Happy Birthday a Tribute to Martin Luther King -Stevie Wonder