Martin Luther King Jr.
This photo of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was taken during a press conference in November 1964. (Dick DeMarsico/NYWTS/CC)

Just months before Dr. King’s assassination, he had the opportunity to sit with young people and field their questions about race, fear, and the future. A conscientious and kind man, Dr. King eventually turned the tables on the group of middle school students and inquired of them: What is Your Life’s Blueprint? Asked less to evoke an answer than to encourage self-reflection, the question intimates that every life, while preordained a rational number of successes and setbacks, ought to have as its foundation, a blueprint.

This text is of particular consequence as hard-fought battles for social and racial equality sit stoically unattended and crumbling before our eyes. The slow and deliberate gentrification of neighborhoods through economic (tax) displacement has signaled a call to the starting gates for intolerance, segregation, and stereotypes of race and class superiority. Those who love justice will not allow the tyranny of the past an opportunity to traipse back into the lives of their children and grandchildren, unanswered. If all your people gave you was a sense of entitlement, it’s time you taught yourself how to speak up, speak out, and fight back.
Globally the stages are set to welcome home angry and bitter policies of discrimination, based on race, class, economic, and religious or tribal differences. So overwhelming does the horizon appear that many good and sound people have stopped speaking up, speaking out, or exercising the civil obligation of voting. They’d rather not be labeled troublemakers.

As key components to the Voting Rights Act disintegrate, Black youth have been largely abandoned as unsalvageable. Similarly, Black homeowners struggle to recover from the devastation of an unjust lending system, and the collective attentions of those who need to speak up and speak out have been averted to the latest dollop of tomfoolery trending on social media.

Utilizing the texts of Dr. King’s “Give Us the Ballot,” The Informer challenges its readers to re-examine their individual blueprints for life. What is it that you want out of life? For what are you prepared to battle? Are you prepared to speak up and speak out for justice no matter the consequence? Will you allow your vote to count?

Dr. King told those students: “If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, be a scrub in the valley. But be the best little scrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win, or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

It’s late in the day … time to “be” something other than quiet. Vote for your blueprint.

Dr. Shantella Y. Sherman

Dr. Shantella Sherman is a historian and journalist who serves as the Informer's Special Editions Editor. Dr. Sherman is the author of In Search of Purity: Eugenics & Racial Uplift Among New Negroes...

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