It was Martin Luther King Day yesterday, a day that has become a special day in our lives in the years since we moved to the US nearly 8 years ago. Its with a particular poignancy that I reflect on a man and the movement that blazed a humble trail toward racial equality and integration in the US. They suffered greatly, beatings, verbal abuse, injustice upon injustice, death. I think of our family; shades of ebony, caramel and peachy tan. Warm rich colors that blend and be and belong in our community. Our park blossoms in colors and cultures. Our school mom prayer meetings are infused with a range of cultures, Korean, Taiwanese, Mexican, me. We walk the streets and play with ease and freedom because men and women of every color fought for carefree fun-filled afternoons like ours.
This year the person I thought of most was Coretta Scott King. Coretta was the wife of Dr. King, mother of their four children, an accomplished musician and fully engaged civil rights activist before she met and married King. I wondered at the price she paid, the endless sacrifices for the sake of the movement. The demands and the energy this movement required. Yes it would change the course of history, but what did that mean for her in the every day? Threats and the fears for her own family, the responsibility she may have felt for others? What was it like to watch her man loved and honored, or vilified and abused? King’s biographers have written of King’s weaknesses & rumored infidelities. Like so many heroes, Martin Luther King was flawed. What would it have been like for Coretta to walk alongside her man, the hero, her man, so flawed? What did it cost her daily, to walk in forgiveness and love? Then when widowed at only 41, she raised a family and she led a grieving movement forward. She served for the rest of her life.
King wrote of Coretta in his autobiography:
We can only imagine the depth with which he wrote behind those words. Sometimes the heroes are the ones in the shadows.
So yesterday and today, I’ve been thinking about Coretta. I couldn’t possibly know her full story or where complex reality meets legendary stories. Still, she’s made me think about the strength that lies within a woman, that well of deep resource that helps a woman endure, the roots that undergird a woman’s life.