Can you read the signs?

I kept looking at the mosaic of interesting faces for signs, clues to help me categorize the people of this rich country.  I wanted to know which physical features differentiated Afrikaners from blacks, whites, or coloureds.  My untrained eye would pick out a face and my un-harnessed mouth would ask, “Is he a coloured?  Is she an Afrikaner?”  And, to my chagrin, I never once, got it right.

I saw a sign on a wall in a home which let me know that I was not the only one confused by this.  It delighted me during dinner conversation to learn that, “today, we are all South Africans.”


Later in the week I went hiking on Table Mountain.   I was busy packing selected images into memory storage, my visual file overloaded.  Nature was screaming, “Look at me, remember this,” when a sign on  a rock silenced me.  I thought of the people of South Africa and the great depth of their richness.  I recalled my brief and detached education of their history and struggle for equality.  I embraced a keener awareness of their ongoing challenges, not all that different from my own country’s.


Next, we hiked the trail at Cape Point.  We walked until we had to stop to catch our breath.  We walked close to the edge of steep cliffs.  I was grateful that it was not raining, the imagined slide down into the ocean or onto the rocks, nerve-wracking.  As one afraid of heights, I had to focus on the horizon to avoid becoming dizzy.  The path was bending and twisting around the most luscious vistas.  And suddenly we reached the end, the farthest point at the Cape of Good Hope.  Another sign.  Could this be the destiny of our journey as brothers?  In the end……………………


We won’t throw stones.

How long is “NOT LONG”

MLK (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968)

Tell your children and your children’s children about a man, a movement and the legacy they enjoy as a result.  Help them imagine a time when black people and white people operated under a different set of rules and were not allowed to live, work, or play together.  If they are confused, angry or saddened, tell them anyway.  Tell them about the time you remember before the Reverend, Dr Martin Luther King jr.

Truth crushed to earth will rise again“, he said. And some tried to crush the message by striking fear into the hearts of the messengers, taking away their jobs, making it more difficult for them to vote, threatening, beating and imprisoning them, burning crosses in their yards and murdering them.  But the truth kept popping out all over the country; on buses, and in drug stores, on bridges and at water fountains, at voter registration centers, in schools,  and on the determined faces of proud, peaceful protesters.

You reap what you sow“, he said. And some scattered seeds of hope among us.  Hope for a better country,  “a promised land where all men would be judged, not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.  The method they would use would be one of non-violence.  They would commit to forgiveness over revenge and would be tested in this over and over.

No lie can live forever“, he said.  And the lie that there is one type of people  inherently superior to another and deserving of preference in all things is a lie that has been circulating and believed for centuries in every tribe and nation.  Can that lie ever be extinguished?

The Arc of the moral Universe is long but it is bent toward justice“, he said.  And Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed us beyond the United States, beyond our world and out into the universe for an explanation of ultimate truth that inherently we all believe; that right will triumph over wrong and that love is stronger than hate.

Who we are as Americans is shaped by the hearts of our people.  Martin Luther King Jr. and his band of brothers and sisters represent the very best of who we are and who we have the possibility of becoming. They took a mirror of reality and had the courage to hold it up in front of our faces and caused an entire nation to take a long look at its’ reflection; an image so loathsome, that collectively and individually, a decision had to be made.  Do we try to fix the ugly blemishes, repair some of the damage,  allow for major reconstructive surgery, or smash the mirror?

Somehow black Americans were able to hold on, like a woman in childbirth, believing in the promise to come.  Was he offering hope to the many exhausted and bloody from labor or a declaration of premonition about his short time with us?

How long? Not long,

How long?………Not long,

How long?………………..Not long,

he said.