In the spring of 1965 I was living in Allston, MA, a working class neighborhood of Boston, when I heard that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming to town. He was leading a march to protest segregated housing conditions and racially imbalanced schools. Newspaper accounts say that there were 50,000 who joined Dr. King that day. The plan, as I recall, was to first march to the School Committee at Boston City Hall, and then hold a rally in Boston Commons – the 50 acre park in the middle of the city – where Dr. King would speak.
I was new to Boston, having moved from New York City only a few months earlier. In the afternoon, I headed over to Boston Commons, hoping that I would be able to find the rally. I figured there would be a good crowd, so if I wandered the tree-lined paths, I would come upon it. However, after a few minutes, I was thinking that – perhaps – I should have asked someone for directions. The area of the park I was in was quiet and I saw no one that I could speak to.
Then, I came upon a clearing and saw a lone man, his back to me, moving almost imperceptibly. I could hear him quietly talking to himself. Although I couldn’t see his face, his impact on me was immediate. The power of this man, the sense that he stood above the rest of us in some kind of way, and the overwhelming aura of solitude that surrounded him, made me certain that I had come upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. contemplating what he would say that day.
I was hesitant to walk past him, not wanting to disturb his thoughts, but decided to keep walking. As I passed him, I quickly glanced back. It was Dr. King. He looked directly at me. His eyes confirmed the sense of solitude I had felt, but they also showed a great sadness – the kind that come from deep within the soul.
My memories of what Dr. King said that day are forgotten, mixed in with all of the famous speeches that have been repeated over the years, but his presence, his solitude, and the sadness that I was so sure I witnessed have stayed with me for almost four decades.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is this weekend, and we’re commemorating it by reaching out in our communities and registering people to vote—working together to help build the kind of future that he envisioned. Join me and other supporters as we honor Dr. King in this very special way. Find an event in your area and RSVP today!