Living the dream

Locals remember Martin Luther King Jr.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Julia Naylor does a reading in recognition of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his namesake holiday Monday at TC Mae’s Family Diner. Locals Sherry and Charlene Washington started up the breakfast again, a few years after the last Martin Luther KIng Jr. Day breakfast.

More than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, those in Fort Dodge, young and old, haven’t forgotten him.

Despite the lapse in traditional breakfasts each Martin Luther King Jr. Day and no events scheduled at the library, as usual, some took action this year to remember that progress towards civil rights was not a one-and-done deal.

“Usually there’s something every year, but there wasn’t this year,” said Sherry Washington, who is expected to become the president of the local NAACP chapter that is now working through the approval process. “We couldn’t let that happen.”

Sherry Washington, along with her mother, Charlene Washington, helped bring a group in to TC Mae’s Family Diner Monday morning to celebrate the dream of the holiday’s namesake in true form.

It was not lost on them that 56 years after King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, that the small group — both black and white — was able to casually gather for breakfast at the same tables in close quarters. It’s something Sherry Washington said they don’t take for granted with the simple passage of time.

There, they took turns giving readings about King’s life, remembering how he forged one of the biggest movements of the 20th century, before singing “We Shall Overcome.”

There, King symbolically watched his dream as a reality front and center from the confines of an old framed photo, provided by Charlene Washington, seated on the red vinyl of a diner chair.

“Then, he didn’t live to see white kids and black kids sitting together,” Sherry Washington said. “None of us would have been able to sit at this diner (together) over 50 years ago.”

The simple reading and song was their way, however small, of paying their respects to a legend that they could never thank in person.

“We are who we are because of him,” Sherry Washington said. “So many things have become diverse because of that dream.”

But as the second decade of another century is ushered in, far removed from the sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, she said their work was not yet done.

“We’re making progress, but we have a ways to go,” she said, telling The Messenger that the next frontier of progress is in bringing respect back to humanity, even if the law forbids discrimination.

She said that the evolution of communication through social media has, in part, erased the respect due in every day life, allowing some to say things with a keyboard or phone that they would never say to a person’s face.

“Bringing respect to another level is progress in the right direction,” she said. “Every year, if I can keep that dream alive, standing on his shoulders, I will.”