[Marxism] My "Meetings" With Dr. King

audradavid at aol.com audradavid at aol.com
Tue Jan 22 06:42:59 MST 2013

In early June of 1960, while I was still a senior in high school in that most left-wing and bohemian of suburbs, Croton-on-Hudson, I attended a rally at an armory in Harlem held by the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was my first publc political event, and Dr. King was there for me at the start. He wasn't at the rally, but his name and pictures of him were everywhere. 

A few months later, as a freshman at NYU, I joined the NAACP, the only civil rights group active at what was then a moderately liberal college. There much talk of Dr. King, nonviolence and the rapidly-growing Civil Rights Movement. We even, according to the boycott then going on, managed to picket a Woolworth's in Greenwich Village.

A few months later, there was a meeting called by some group up at the University Heights campus of NYU. It was January or February of 1961. Kennedy had been elected President after, among other things, making his famous phone call to Coretta King. The guest speaker at the meeting was Dr. King himself. And I got my skinny, 5'6" self up to the Bronx on a bleak winter afternoon to hear and meet Dr. King. The meeting was small, no more than about 30 people. Dr. King's presence was unnoticed by the vast majority of NYU students. 

I regret that I have no memory of what he said. But afterwards, I went over to him and introduced myself. We had a mutual acquaintance, Bonnie Kilstein, the head of the NAACP at NYU's downtown campus. We shook hands. I introduced myself as a representative of NYU NAACP. He said a few words of thanks to me. I can still remember the warmth of his voice.

And that was it. An encounter with history. I saw him twice more. Once on the March on Washington when he gave the "I Have a Dream Speech." I was standing about 300 feet away from him. I can still close my eyes and hear his voice booming out over the loudspeakers. I was 19.

And then, again, a few months later, he spoke at a memorial rally for the three little Black girls killed by racists in Birmingham. The crowd was huge. It was at Foley Square where in November, 2012, thousands of us protested the eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park.

In the Spring of '67, Dr. King spoke at the first large anti-Vietnam march and rally in New York. The march was so big, more than half a million, that by the time my contingent got to the rally point at the UN, Dr. King had already spoken.

About a year later, he was gone. The struggles that he led against racism and poverty are far from over. A day doesn't go by that I don't think of him. And I think of that fervent young man who was privileged to see him, walk with him and shake his hand. 


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