Dear Mid-Michigan Teen Party Promoters,
First, I'm not writing to yell at, belittle or attack you. I'm writing because I care about you. We do a lot of talking about one another and not enough talking to one another—especially when it comes to our young people. I'm a firm believer that if I'm going to complain about something that affects my community, I need to also be bold enough to confront the person(s) involved. So, I'm coming to you in the most open way that I can.
I'm sure by now you've realized you've pissed off lots of people and that you've disappointed many others. Evidenced by the fact you've deleted your social media profiles, you are probably embarrassed. Maybe even a bit afraid of the backlash? Or quite possibly irritated that I (and folks like me) would have the nerve to be mad about your MLK party flyer? We’re messing up your money, right? Well, you have a right to feel all of those things. But hopefully by the end of my letter you will feel differently about all of this.
Hey, I don't know you from Adam. I don't even know if you are Black. However, I want to assume that no matter what color you are, no one has taken the time to teach you about Dr. King and the true meaning of his legacy in the African American community. No one must have told you that because of Dr. King, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Medgar Evers and those of the like, an entire community of people can now live equally in this country. They couldn't have expressed how much our civil rights leaders endured for our equality. But then again, maybe you have heard these stories, watched a documentary but you have simply chosen not to listen because today is different? Because that was a long time ago? Because none if that really affects you? Well, I have a reality check for you: Those "old" leaders matter. Their suffering matters. Our freedoms matter and yes, you, you matter.
See, I'm a millennial—an older millennial, but a millennial all the same. At times I feel like older generations don't "get us" and what "they went through" doesn't quite hit home for me because I didn't actually do any of it. However, I respect it. When I watch videos and hear stories of the true struggle of my ancestors, I feel unworthy of my freedom because of the pain they had to endure. The truth is, if it weren't for their scarifies, I wouldn't be able to enjoy the life that I have. The truth is you wouldn't be able to enjoy the liberty of throwing the parties that you do if it were not for those who have come before us. You wouldn't be able to invite teenagers from all backgrounds to party and provide the money that I'm sure pays for something you own. My point is, in some way, your life now matters to the masses because of the life of Dr. King. It is completely unacceptable to mock his image in the way that you did. The level of sheer disrespect demonstrated by that flyer, in every way, is unconscionable. You've done the Black community, your parents, your family and most important yourself (or selves), a huge disservice.
I want to believe you are better than what this flyer shows of you. I want to believe that you value your life in a way that is much greater than the mockery on that flyer. I want to believe that you know all of this too. And if you didn’t, I’m telling you that you are all of these.
In closing, I want to you know, you don't owe me anything. You don’t owe the Black community anything for that matter. But you do owe it to yourself to truly learn about the history of Blacks in America, and that includes the work and accomplishments of Dr. King. And then, at the very least, you do owe an apology to the Kings. He may be a leader in America, but he is their family.
I hope in the near future it serves you well to own up to your mistake as a man or a woman and use this as a learning experience to make better—well, informed choices going forward.
All the best,
Ebonie Johnson Cooper
Ebonie Johnson Cooper is a millennial writer/blogger with a passion for community engagement and giving. She is the owner of Friends of Ebonie, the social impact company all about young black philanthropy. Ebonie enjoys singing off-key and dancing on beat. Follow her at @EJCthatsME.