Jameka and half a dozen of her friends were sitting at the hem of King’s garment when I met them. They sat along the Tidal Basin, in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. Their feet swung carefree above the reflective waters. Softly, they sang old-time spirituals. My grandmothers would have been proud.
They giggled and laughed as if they were gathered around a campfire in some place secluded, oblivious to the throngs of people filing past the King Memorial, snapping photos, reading the writing on the walls. The soft innocence of their collective voices was particularly refreshing for me after recent observations of female aggression.
A young woman stabbed her college roommate to death earlier in the month. I had been fired by my boss, a woman, with no reason given, a week before. A woman principal in a high school where my friend works has been terrorizing teachers there for years. I know, first-hand, that some of our black women in Congress curse and yell at their staff regularly. Our motto has become “curse, don’t cry.” So, the quiet songs of the young women at the King Memorial drew me in.
I sat down with them and sang along. Between songs, we chatted. They had arrived from their suburban Washington homes. Their trip was part of a 21st birthday celebration for one of the young women.
Jameka and I quickly found common ground. We both love to write, and we both live near Annapolis. She invited me to Women’s Day at her church the next day. I accepted, delighted to encourage her soft-spoken evangelism.
Seeing Jameka and the other young women appreciating the offerings of our ancestors, I felt hopeful. They “get it,” I thought. But there was more. After Women’s Day church service the next day, I talked to three young women, ages 19-21, who had worshiped on the front row.
I was intrigued by their Navy uniforms and their arm-in-arm sway as we sang songs throughout the service. They are students at the U.S. Naval Academy, they told me.
I thought Dr. King would have been delighted to see the young women, two Caucasian and one African American, worshiping together. He would certainly have been pleased with Brittany, the African American woman taking advantage of educational opportunities afforded by his civil rights work.
Brittany studied flight and hopes to be selected for further training as a naval flight officer. But her reason for pursuing military service seems to honor Dr. King’s mission most.
“Aviators can get in closer than ships to supply the troops and people in need,” Brittany said. Her military service will be about making peace.
These girls “get” it. They are peaceful and powerful in their purpose. Dr. King would be proud.
“I love being in the air. I seriously feel like I’m closest to God when I’m in the air,” Brittany said. “I mean, you like seriously have to rely on God and the instruments in your hands when you’re in the air. It’s humbling.”
Follow Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery on Twitter at: @Sonsyrea.