A “National Day of Racial Healing,” is celebrated annually on the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation founded this in 2017 as part of its effort to open and encourage discussion about racism and reconciliation.

As he expressed in his “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King sought to unite rather than divide our nation. He advocated for honoring all human beings, respecting our differences, and encouraging us to vote. Sadly, too many folks do not understand that our diversity is what gives our country its unique strength and greatness.

White supremacists and the ignorant of our nation continue to infect us with the diseases of racism and bigotry. This is an assault on our Constitution and democracy. All citizens are equal under the law and have the right to vote and pursue freedom. Because these basic rights are too often ignored, good Americans have found it necessary to establish a day designated for racial healing.

The day Martin Luther King was assassinated had a huge impact on me. I felt with his death that his dream died as well, and with it, our future hope. When this occurred, I was on the West Side of Chicago at Roosevelt School, tutoring children with Florence Malone, a friend from Oak Park. A policeman interrupted our class to inform us that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. He told us not to leave the building.

“Folks are going crazy out there, setting fires, breaking windows, and acting out their anger,” he said.

Barricades were set up to better control the mayhem and prevent people from entering or leaving the area. The violence and outbursts were understandable, but oh so terrifying for the children, Florence, and myself.

Florence and I were able to reach the families of all but two of the children. We assured them we would care for them. Florence had an idea to calm the children and keep them safe, suggesting we take them to her home to feed them and have them swim in her pool. The police offered to get us out, but initially some of the children balked at going with the police, confiding in us that they were afraid of them.

To our amazement, my husband Marty suddenly and miraculously appeared at the school. With police escort we piled the children into both Marty’s station wagon and Florence’s car, and traveled to the safety and calm of her home. For the most part, although it was a cool April evening, the children were delighted, swimming in their underclothes and being blanket-wrapped for their supper. It seemed they had forgotten the chaos left behind. By a belated bedtime, the children were safely home, and we could finally come up for a breath of air!

The only other time I remember being this frightened was when Marty and I went to Selma to march for voting rights. This peaceful group of protesters was led by a young 25-year-old, John Lewis. Unfortunately, Marty and I felt we needed to leave the march when we saw the rapid build-up of a militia closing in around the peaceful marchers. Some of these heroic folks who stayed to march were severely injured … all in the name of voting rights. That infamous day of March 7, 1965 came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” The only “good” resulting from this horrific day of sacrifice was the eventual enactment of the Voting Rights Act which passed unanimously in Congress.

Now, here we are in 2023, and we are again fighting for the right of all citizens to vote without harassment. President Biden has urged deaf-eared Republicans to abide by what is provided in our Constitution — the right to vote in free, fair, and unobstructed elections.

To our Congress, please allow for wise counsel and support the rights due all of us in this democracy to pursue freedom.

May there be no need to have a designated day for racial healing! In truth we need racial healing every day.

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