Monday, January 19, 2009


"About a hundred and ninety-two Negroes were registered, on the average, a month in the State of Mississippi; all over the state, a hundred and ninety-two a month. Now, on the basis of this rate of registration, it would take exactly one hundred and thirty-five years for half of the Negroes eligible to vote in Mississippi to become registered."

Dr. King, 1965 on the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Undoubtedly, this country has made great progress. Tomorrow is a testament to this as Obama is sworn into office. I swell with pride at the thought of it.
Its like a dream come true.
The following I wrote two years ago, and i am happy to report that no switches have been cut to thrash the Country into making better choices.
Its been a Switch of the Mind.
Thank you Martin. How brave you were!


My mother was one of four sisters. Glesnal was the eldest of the four and when I was young she was certainly the one to be given the widest berth. She would go and "cut herself a switch" at the drop of a hat and she would drop the hat herself. Any hint of misconduct in her presence was dealt with in a fast and firm fashion.

I can scarcely pass by a Crepe Myrtle tree or a Chinaberry without thinking of Glesnal.

It was precisely this quality that endeared Glesnal to me later in life.
When I was 5 or 6 years old I remember visiting Glesnal in Little Rock Arkansas. The year was 1962 or 1963 and tha topic of discussion was "nigras" causing a lot of trouble in Mississippi. The strange thing was that Glesnal, while seeming to be sympathetic to the "nigras" cause, and seemed to maintain that the whites were in the wrong, and had been in the wrong for sometime, was not ready to go cut herself a switch.

This was an attitude I was not accustomed to from her, and over the next ten years I would see this attitude displayed by most of my family and my race. And it would be longer than that before I really heard it defined.

Today we celebrate the birth of a truly great American, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr..

I do believe that any understanding of our country must be based on the fact that we fought a Great Civil War over Civil Rights, in which 600,000 Americans died, and that that war was still being fought 100 years later when I was just a boy.
The case is easily made that it is still being fought.
There are switches still to cut.

My parents and Glesnal were "Moderates"; that is to say that they were more concerned with keeping order than with Social change. I was too young to understand that then. But I was old enough to think that somewhere, someone ought to be cuttin' themself a switch.

Dr. King wrote a letter in a Birmingham jail that said this:
"I have been gravely disappointed in the White moderate. I have almost reached the conclusion that the Negro's greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Council, or the Ku Klux klan, but the white moderate more devoted to "order" than justice".

I was in Detroit during the 67 & 68 riots; it was the first time I can recall hearing my parents say things that disturbed me... down deep. I guess they were scared. Dad came home one day in August and said we were going back to Texas. We stopped in Chicago and I watched hippies turning cars over outside the Democratic National Convention.
They had cut themselves some switches.
As the years went by I saw more and more people who were willing to lay it down for a cause.
There were some, like at Kent State, that laid it all the way down.
So did Dr. King.

It seems lately however that there are fewer and fewer of these people. We seem to be better informed about the issues; and the comedians these days can make a pretty good joke of the most serious of issues; but what has happened to the lost arts of getting upwind of tear gas and how to assume a fetal position when the billy-clubs come out?

Who wants to go cut themselves a switch?

Anyway, we know that I am better at telling you what happened to me than trying to write an Editorial...Mainly I just want you to know how much I admired Dr. King and his dream.
I used to have a copy of his "Dream" speech set to music... his voice and delivery is so lyrical; if you ever come across it it is worth a listen.


Anonymous said...

It will be a great day tomorrow for everyone. Obama is an inspiration.

e said...

Great posting. Thanks for your comments on my Blog. You are right about what we have seen.

Dave Mows Grass said...

I remember when you posted this last year. It is perhaps your most insightful post ever. You have the gift of clear vision.

cornbread hell said...

i'm just now reading this magnificent post. thanks.

i'm going to a codepink protest this afternoon. "cuttin' a switch" for bush's return to texas. check it out at: and come join us.