Dear Mr. Booker,
I have read a lot of articles about your life and some passages from your book. When I was younger, I never felt the undercurrent of racism of our world. Then I listened to my 69-year-old father talk about living in Philadelphia during the days of segregation and serving in the Vietnam War, when he was ridiculed and bashed. I now understand what a hard place it was for African-Americans in that time period.
Your stories and also my father’s made me value how so much has changed. Yet I worry if Americans’ mindset about civil rights in general is slowly atrophying because we think a paper that tells us we have rights makes us free.
I fear that we African Americans have become lazy in our efforts to create change. Some of us think that because we have an African- American president we don’t have to work as hard anymore. Before we had President Obama, we had the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X and – you.
From elementary to high school, I learned about the more notable people of the Civil Rights Movement. However, your story inspired me because I got to learn about
someone in black history that I hadn’t known about. I learned more about history through your accounts of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the efforts of the Freedom Riders.
When I first started looking at your story, I thought of my father. He wasn’t an activist or even a high school graduate, but he lived in that same time period. He experienced everything that people were fighting to end. He could not go to certain bars in the South because he was a “colored” man. He was in jail the day the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He remembers the moment when chaos struck inside the jail.
Even though my father wasn’t a journalist like you or an activist like Malcolm X, he still had a story – one he would tell his children when we were old enough to understand. When I was younger, I did not value these stories, but now I am aware.
Mr. Booker, your story is beyond inspirational. These stories are scary, but they are the truth of what was going on in America. I started to think about how much we truly need to change, not just to be better African-Americans, but also to be better people.
We have a lot more inequalities to deal with because the world will never be perfect, but as you said, “This is just the end to the beginning.”