On MLK Day — Lest We Forget

Mabes' Nursing Diploma, 1948
Mabes’ Nursing Diploma, 1948

A few months ago, we were moving my mother out of her condo, and I came across her nursing school diploma. I knew that she had graduated from the Grady COLORED School of Nursing in Atlanta, but seeing the racial adjective so prominently displayed on her diploma reminded me of all that she, my father, and so many others of their generation went through so that their children wouldn’t have to suffer such indignities.

It may be hard to grasp today, but despite my mother’s segregated education, her nursing school diploma was progress. She went on to become the first black nursing administrator in the City of Flint — Assistant Director of Nursing at Hurley Hospital. And while segregation and racial bias certainly limited her opportunities, my mother never let such injustice define or embitter her. She was and is a gracious lady, and her beauty and grace still shine through today, even in her much diminished state.

On this Martin Luther King Day, let us remember and honor all those who struggled to defeat institutionalized racism/sexism/xenophobia, for they surely laid the groundwork for the society we live in today — a society in which no one questions whether a Catholic can be president, or Asians can participate fully in American life, or a woman can run General Motors. A society where, even though many of his colleagues are spitting nails, a black man can lead the most powerful nation on earth.

Let’s honor those who sacrificed, because yeah, they built that.