Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Birthday" - Paul McCartney

Dr. King and Me

There were two people in my life that I shared a January birthday with, who have been a major influence in my growing up
The first one was my brother, Rick Widman, who's birthday is in the same week as mine. Rick's birthday on Jan 20, and mine on Jan 25.
The other one was Dr. Martin Luther King, who's birthday is really on Jan 15, though it's often observed around Jan 20.

Yours Truly was born January 25, 1955, in Washington, DC.
When Dr. King came to DC with his large following in 1963, I was 8 years old and, believe it or not, I remember it.
On live TV I watched, while safe at home, the man everyone was talking about giving his famous "I have a dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I knew where that place was. My little legs have climbed up those very steps holding my Daddy's hand.

I remember hearing this man referred to as "Martin Luther Coon" and about the day "the niggers marched on Washington." I heard a lot of things from grown-ups who thought I wasn't listening.

In 1968 I was 13 years old. It was in April of that year, shortly before Easter, when Dr. King was assassinated. There were riots in DC. I stayed home from school and watched soldiers patrolling the streets from our window.

That same year, just two months later, on June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It was at the Ambassador Hotel, a building in DC I was very familiar with. He died the following morning. It was noted the date of his death had three sixes in it, 6/6/68.
Somehow my young mind was able to grasp that the whole world as I knew it had experienced an impact that will never go away.

In 1969, at the age of 14, I had the honor of signing a petition that went around in my school to make the birthday of Martin Luther King a national holiday.

Eventually they did make it a holiday, but they don't call it MLK's Birthday anymore, but MLK Day. Rather than the birthday proper of Jan 15, it is dated each year to fall on a Monday, in order to give us a 3 day weekend, usually around the 20th.

In 1970, at the age of 15, I came to Chapel Hill, NC for my first time. I decided I wanted to live here. I felt a lot safer here. People in Chapel Hill did not get shot for talking about peace.

My brother Rick and I used to celebrate our birthdays together, as they were so close together. Now I get to celebrate it in the same week as Dr. King. I consider this a great honor.

So for me and Dr. King, through the courtesy of YouTube, I have asked Paul McCartney to play a birthday song for us. Now wasn't it nice of him to comply?


webspinner said...

Happy Birthday Wild Bill! I hope you liked the snow I sent you for your birthday. Aren't you glad to be an Aquarian?
With love,

Bill Widman said...

Yes indeed I am glad to be an Aquarian. I just wouldn't be me otherwise.
Thank you for the snow. How did you manage to send it? I'm glad I was able to share it with everyone else.