That day, the March on Washington, August 28, 1963 was the day after my late sister, Joanne, was born. She would have been 50 yesterday; she died from complications from multiple sclerosis at the age of 37. Please allow me to reminisce a bit today.
When Joanne was brought home from the hospital as a newborn, our family had just moved into the first home that my parents owned, on Hovey Street in Woburn, Massachusetts. When I look back, I guess one could say that we were a poor family when it came to riches, but a rich family when it came to love. Hovey Street was an interesting place to grow up. It was a racially diverse neighborhood. There was a "slum" a few houses down in which lived impoverished Puerto Rican immigrants. My mom and our neighbor, Mrs. Queen, worked tirelessly to help the families there and eventually worked hard enough to ensure that the building was torn down. Many of our neighbors were recent immigrants from Puerto Rico. I remember, having studied Spanish, that I would help do some translating when they needed to speak to English-speaking doctors. Just on the other side of Hovey Street was Woburn's predominantly African-American neighborhood and we were friends with a girl whose name was "Marlene," who lived "down on Center Street."
When I look back, I realize that our parents taught us so much. I never thought that the Peurto Ricans who lived on our street nor the African-Americans a street over were really any different from any of us. We were all just neighbors, living in a poor neighborhood in a suburb of Boston. I have no recollections of racism or intolerance. And for that I have my parents to thank. When you grow up in a multi-ethnic and diverse neighborhood, racial difference, as least for us, simply did not amount to a hill of beans.
So, last night, when I heard the words of Doctor King once again, I dreamed his same dream, and was grateful that in 1963, in a tiny little neighborhood in a somwhat obscure suburb of Boston, there were kids of all shades of brown playing with one another and simply having fun together.
"From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.