I had the actually amazing opportunity to see Myrlie Evers-Williams speak last night. For those who aren’t aware, backstory: the widow of assassinated Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers, author and editor, corporate woman, 1st black woman to chair the NAACP, 1st black woman on the public works board of LA and founder of the Medgar Evers Institute for social justice. This woman has bulldozed her way through obstacles and at 82 is still kicking.
And I wasn’t going to go see her. I was not planning on attending a free presentation by a woman who lived through the horrors of the Jim Crow South, a woman who watched her husband bleed to death in their garage at a young age, who raised their children and clawed her way into positions that were blocked off to her because of her race and her sex. I was going to pass, because I was not interested in hearing a speech on love and forgiveness. I was not interested in hearing a collage of the snippets they play in school on MLK: docile, loving, passive.
I wanted something real, authentic, genuine. Thanks to a peer of mine who encouraged me to attend, that’s what I got. She was emboldened. She was fierce and audacious, rightly so. She spoke of love but also of remembrance; she spoke of how far we’ve come but also how far we have to go. She spoke of personal responsibility and of fighting despite being weary.
She did not forget. She did not wipe away events and people from her mind like amnesia. But how could she, when those events helped to make her the woman that everyone respected and applauded?
In speaking of her experiences, and the circumstances that have driven her to this point in her life, she reminded me of the purpose of this point in my life. She reminded me of my own vision and its position between how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. She wiped away the steam around my purpose here She inspired me to act despite my fear. To speak, and write and create because I have too. Because so many have died so that I would and could. And because so many more will if I don’t.