My Birthday, the Civil Rights Act, and Being “Somebody”

An interesting factoid about my birthday, I learned when I was about 10 years old. My local library was my refuge from all the things going on in the streets of my neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. The librarians made me the unofficial mascot and would let me refile books for them, and I even got to use the book cart. As a child I used to talk to God as if He were my buddy sitting right next to me. I can remember the day I discovered the truth about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I was feeling down because it was one of those rare days where being a black boy in the inner city had me feeling some kind of way. It was my birthday week.

Slowly and methodically I went towards the 300s: for those of you who don’t know, that’s the Dewey decimal system before computers. I found the documents showing the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 was related to my birthday. It was a kind of birthday present all in itself. I learned it was passed at 2:54 PM and I was born at 3:54 p.m. As I realized that I was born and recognized as a human being from my first day here, it put a kind of gleam in my eye. I strutted home from the library with my chest stuck out and a pep in my step. I told mama what I had learned and from that day on, when someone of another race would try to look at me as if I was less than them (and trust me that was often back in the early 70’s) I would look them right back in the eye and beam.

I know, I know, Jesse Jackson with operation push would always have us say at rallies “I am somebody,” but my childhood friend led me to this document and said to me “Kenny you are my friend and here, in case you need it, is more proof that you are somebody.” This has proven to be one if the best birthday presents I ever received. Thank you Lord God! And thank you America for being a noble Nation that would amend your sins, Amen 🙏.

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