MY DINNER WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND JAMES FARMER JR.

MY DINNER WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND JAMES FARMER JR.

by Judith Trustone

published in The Swarthmorean

Seeing Denzel Washington’s excellent film, “The Great Debaters,” brought back memories of a dark February night in 1968 when, in Media, I hosted a small dinner party for a tired-looking James Farmer Jr. and Martin Luther king, Jr.. I had been honored by their presence because of my civil rights work, and hoped to provide the weary warriors a relaxing evening. Did any of us know that night that Martin would soon be assassinated?  His blood flowing with democracy, down the drain to the toxic underground sewer of racial hatred in America.

After dinner, both men retired to a private space where they had a serious discussion, judging by their demeanor.  The rest of us chatted quietly in the kitchen while we cleaned up from dinner.

For a change my four young sons went to bed and stayed there without protest or squabble. We regrouped in the living room, feeling a lightness coming from the two civil rights leaders. They were ready to relax.

Someone broke out a bottle of Wild Turkey, and the mood shifted to party time. Soon there was a joke telling competition, and King and Farmer tried to outdo one another with Bull Conner tales and redneck jokes, and we laughed the evening away.

I was glad that they had been able to relax and have some fun.

Later on April 4th, I was riding home from class pondering an exam I’d just taken. The car radio didn’t work. Suddenly a feeling washed over me that my father was dead, yet I knew it wasn’t my biological father. Arriving home, I found the babysitter in tears, crying that Martin Luther King had been shot, hoping he would survive. I knew in my bones that my spiritual father was dead.

And the country and all of us would never again be the same.

Judith Trustone, Director of Sagewriters, and a 2008 Leeway Foundation Transformation Award recipient, has been a human rights activist for 50 years

801 Yale Ave. #1215

Swarthmore, PA 19081

610-328-6101

info@Sagewriters.org

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