eyes and the prize

White only-smWhat a week that was.

It begins on Monday with Obama’s inauguration and the beginning of his second term as President of the USA. The first time was historic. This time seems almost normal. The first Black President of the USA.

Obama’s public ceremony takes place on the same day that his nation remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

On Thursday, Chief Theresa Spence and two other hunger strikers end their personal protests after a promise that Canada’s chiefs, the Assembly of First Nations, and parliament’s opposition political parties will keep pressuring the Harper Government to revise or repeal parts of its Omnibus Budget bills.

On that same day, Shawn Atleo returns to his job as head of the Assembly of First Nations after a week off on doctor’s orders.

Meanwhile, Idle No More gears up for a march on Canada’s Parliament Hill and an around the world round dance for the rights of all Indigenous peoples. This takes place today – January 28.

Seven days. What a week! Truly exciting stuff. What does it mean?

What could Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Spence, Atleo and the AFN, and Canada’s parliament possibly have in common with each other?  On the surface, not much.

Until you ponder the meanings of the ‘60s US civil rights struggle.  Then, and only then, does something start to take shape.

Dr. King and others weren’t interested in the repeal of one or two laws or set of regulations. They weren’t politicians worried about public perception, popularity polls, or the next vote. They saw injustice and came out to march, to risk, to stand for something, to change things.

They didn’t face beatings, arrests, assassination so they could eat at a lunch counter or sit at the front of a bus. They didn’t march into the ranks of heavily armed cops, attack dogs and racist mobs so they could drink at water fountains, use swimming pools or walk on beaches posted with “White Only” signs. They were fighting a stubborn virus that infects American society called “Jim Crow”.

The people heading out to flash mobs and round dances today may not know about this history better than anybody else. But they know what poverty feels like. They understand more than most what living in a ghetto feels like. They know what it’s like to cram three generations of one family into a plywood shack. They’ve seen what shattered dreams can do to families, communities, a peoples.

Unlike politicians, or leadership if you prefer, their eyes seem set on another goal, a grander vision, a bigger prize. It might be hard to explain this to the satisfaction of a mere journalist. But whose fault is that?

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