I finished my undergrad on the campus of Indiana University/Purdue University, Kokomo. I took Sociological Theory from Dr. Earl Wysong who was a member of the Socialist Party of America, and my Psychology 101 professor had once provided therapy to the tail gunner of the Enola Gay. And it was during this time that I found writing.
I was walking down the hall one evening and there was a poster – in remembrance of the 25th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. an essay contest entitled “The Status of the Dream – 1993.” I remember looking at the poster and thinking, “I can do that. I can write an essay, I can win that contest.”
I had no evidence that any of these claims were true.
I submitted my essay to the Chancellor’s office by the deadline and a few weeks later I received an invitation to a campus tea during Black History Month. I assumed everyone had received this invitation. I utterly failed to connect the essay I’d submitted to this bit of mail. I went home, slipped into my favorite pair of Wranglers, threw on a sweater, and headed off to the late afternoon event.
I was the minority in the room and I was not used to anything upscale. I tried to stand near the back and began to plan my exit as soon as I’d arrived. Twenty minutes into the proceedings a gentleman in a suit and tie – I was desperately under-dressed – stepped up to the mic and, of all things, began to speak of the essay contest.
Sweet Moses.
Later in the evening I had several folks walk up to me and congratulate me. The fellow in the suit told me that from my writing it was obvious that I was a student of Dr. King’s writing. I didn’t know how to tell him that I’d read part of Strength to Love, several of the speeches, and very little else.
As I walked to my car that evening I realized that there was something to this. I had moved total strangers, scholars even, with my writing.
I could do something with this.