On August 6, 2015 I delivered the Thursday keynote for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (#TCRWP) August Writing Institute. I focused on the importance of trust in teaching writing. At one point in the keynote I read my most recent blog post (see www.LesterLaminack.com). That post was my response to the recent events in Charleston, southern heritage, and the confederate flag. The speech was well received and I was deeply touched by the response.
Though many came up to speak with me afterwards, one young African-American teacher from CA (I wish I had his name) came up to tell me what the remarks had meant to him. I thanked him. We embraced and he removed a button from his shirt and handed it to me. "I want you to have this."
I pinned the button to the lapel of my jacket and left it there. I embrace its message and I'm proud to wear it. But as I moved through the hours I became unconscious of having it on my jacket. So yesterday afternoon (Friday) I board the flight from LaGuardia to Charlotte. I had been upgraded to first class and took my seat on the aisle in row two. The flight attendant came through asking if anyone wanted a drink while we waited for others to board. I declined, but noticed that each time she passed she seemed to be looking at me as if she expected me to say something. Finally, as everyone was boarded she stepped into the aisle and came over to me, "I hope you don't mind me asking, but I'm intrigued by your button. Shouldn't it say, ALL lives matter?"
I looked at her and sat silent for a moment. Then I asked, "May I ask you how old you are?" She was 32. "Then this may be hard for you to imagine, but I'm going to ask that you reflect a while before saying anything. Imagine you have two sons that are the same age, twins. But one is white and one is black. Can you hold that thought in you mind?" She said yes. "Now let's imagine that your two boys are age 19 or 20 and are heading out for the evening in the city...maybe in Ferguson or Baltimore or Charleston... (I pause to let that settle). Would you feel that both your boys would be equally safe for the evening? She said little. Very little. Then I said, "So, I guess you could say we have to remind our friends, families, and neighbors that Black Lives Matter. And until they embrace that notion and live with it as a truth, we can't do more than give lip service to the notion that ALL lives matter." She just stood there and I added, "you know, I think I will have a drink."