My First King Day
In January of 1986 I worked as a research chemist for a small chemical company in Atlanta. I was the first Black person to work in the lab; a few weeks after I was hired another brother was promoted from the manufacturing plant to R&D and we became fast friends.
When it was announced there would be a King Day parade in downtown Atlanta, we immediately made plans. King Day sweatshirts were on sale and we both bought them. The plan was to wear the shirts to work that day then go to the parade, which was supposed to begin at 12:00 pm. We would stay during our lunch break then return to work.
That morning I arrived at work with my King shirt. I walked down the hall to my work station, ignoring the stares of my white colleagues. A few minutes after I got settled, my friend showed up . . . without his sweatshirt.
"Wait a minute," he said.
He ran out to his car, returning wearing his sweatshirt. I guess he didn't want to be the only one.
Lunch time came and we loaded into my car. We drove downtown, found a parking space then hurried to join the enthusiastic crowd lining Peachtree Street. We waited for a while before we realized the parade was late. My friend began to get nervous as time passed.
"Milton," he said. "We need to get back to work. Lunch break is almost over."
"We're not going anywhere," I said. "We're staying until we see the parade. It's King Day, and I dare them to say something to us when we get back."
My friend wasn't happy, but he had no choice.
The parade finally began at 1:00 p.m. It was well worth the wait. I was so proud to be standing their witnessing a historical event. My friend finally forgot about the consequences of work and got into the celebration. If others looked at it as a 'Black' holiday, so be it.
After the parade we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch, exchanging good words with others who had come to celebrate. We got back to work just in time to fill out our time sheets and go home for the day. I returned to work the next day expecting to have to explain myself, but no one said a word. Not that it mattered if they did.
Today I'm at home celebrating the day. My current employer doesn't recognize King Day as a company holiday, but they might as well. None of the productions workers are there, and only three people in shipping. Twenty-five years later and the debate continues. Maybe one day everyone in this country will realize that what Martin Luther King, Jr. did was for all of us, not some of us.