It isn’t very often that you get a chance to say “Thank you” to the historical figures who’ve touched your life. But this past weekend I had just such an opportunity. One of my wife’s closest friends is a relative of Juanita Abernathy, widow of Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy who with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We had the opportunity of joining Mrs. Abernathy for a dinner in her honor ahead of her speaking at the MLK Day celebration at the Union League Club in Chicago.
The dinner was great, and Mrs. Abernathy remains an active and vibrant person. And the stories she told, particularly of the time they spent in Chicago, really drove home just how much of a struggle she and the others went through to secure the equality promised by the U.S. Constitution. She really reminded me of my mom a great deal. And that made me think even more about how much I owe her and the other leaders of the movement for the life I have today. My educational opportunities simply would not have been available in pre-Civll Rights America. And my marriage to the Chinese woman I fell in love with, would be illegal. So I owe a great debt to those who struggled before me.
Juanita Abernathy is the last living member of the core leadership of the Civil Rights movement. So it was an honor to speak with her and thank her personally for all that she did. And the closest I’ll ever get to thanking King personally on this side of eternity. Now it’s time to carry on the fight.