When I moved to Europe, I recall wanting to march to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, even thought it meant that I would march alone. My husband suggested that this practice would be odd in Europe because it is American history. I disagreed with him, but opted to have a private celebration , year after year after year. A Martin Luther King souvenir perches near our home entrance door in France and a President Barack Obama sun visor is highlighted in my automobile window. Principles of Dr. King’s speech continue to reverberate in many aspects of my life, irregardless of which country I live in.
I feel blessed and honored to have witnessed the presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Yet, in 2011, remnants of racial injustice continue to spot the multinational/multicultural quilt. Just two days earlier, I entered the Catholic church in this village of Alsace with an elderly neighbor in order to polish the pews. I noticed the Nativity scene. There is the baby Jesus and two kings. Wait…Balthazar, the African king, is missing…but maybe not… there, at the edge of the scene is a sculpture…a smiling black man…The neck of the sculpture had been broken and was glued back into place…So, here we have a smiling black man sculpture, perched on the edge of the Nativity scene, with a repaired broken neck, and an opening carved in the chest area, for the function of collecting coins..So, the sculpture is a Balthazar bank replacement? Each time someone inserts a coin, the black man’s head bobs up and down…(I am remeinded of the “bobbing head” dogs seen in automobiles)….I find this insulting and speak on it to my neighbor. An elderly French woman, she offers, “Je ne sais pas.” (I don’t know) Balthazar deserves to stand as a king as Casper and Melchior.
I still have a dream that our daughter will not be judged by the color of her skin but by the content of her character. And I, a black woman in Europe, wait for the day, the moment, the second, that I may experience the wonderfulness of just being me, a person, without being subdued to minus in the eyes of the onlooker. When confronted by xenophobic mentality, I attempt to remain, by God’s grace, anchored in my magnificence, beauty and intelligence. And in that vein, I feel that I honor the memory and the legacy of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.