The following is an excerpt from Rickie Brown’s soon-to-be published book “April 4, 1968: The Aftermath,” a chronicle of people’s memories of the day Dr. King died.
I was a young man in 1968 and, to me, my mother was the world. She raised 11 children with no man in her life to help support us. I always saw her as being the embodiment of strength until that faithful day that would change my life and the world forever.
We attended St. Agatha’s Catholic Elementary School. I remember one day all the kids in the school being whisked outside and lined up to see what we were told was a great man who had moved to Chicago to change how Negros were living in city slums.
As we were looking south down Kedzie, a huge parade was coming, but there were no bands or floats. Instead, the parade was more like a procession. It was Dr. Martin L. King Jr.
When they got to where we were, Dr. King got out and addressed the crowd. He then shook hands with some of the followers and then picked my little sister up because she reminded him of his own little girl. I remember my baby sister telling my mother later that she had been picked up by a KING!
That day, April 4, I remember we were sent home in a hurry that day. The world looked strange. It was cloudy outside as people hurried every way. I have never seen so many people looking so confused and at the same time horrified and sad. We lived at 1628 S. Sawyer. It was the longest three blocks we ever walked that day.
The stores were closing early. But what was even stranger to us, they were being boarded up. At 15th Street, the Big Wheel Liquor store was closing. Never in my life as a kid did I see that place close. But for some reason it was today. As we passed people on the street they were throwing at whites who were making their way home or wherever they were going. Some even threw bricks into the windows of cars passing by while others where trying to help them while saying “He would not want us to act this way!”
We made it home and still wondered what was going on? Not long after our front door swung open after we heard someone running up the stairs. It was mama. She had a strange look on her face. She quickly asked if everyone was home. The phone had been ringing constantly while we were there, and each call was for mama, and the message was the same. ‘Tell your mama to call me as soon as she gets in OK! Now don’t forget! Tell her to call me boy, right away!’ They hung up without ever saying goodbye.
Mama came in and immediately turned on the TV. She turned the sound up loud. We knew something important had happened, and you could tell because mama still had on her coat and was staring wildly at the screen with an expression of disbelief. And then we herd.
“The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. by a sniper’s bullet.”
At that moment, it was as if I had lost my hearing or just blocked everything out. I didn’t even see when my mother had went in her room and locked her door, but I did hear the most heartbreaking sound in my life, and that was the voice of my mother asking God “WHY?”-and she cried like a child.
Remember, my mother was the strength of the world to me. But when she opened that door to come back out to check on her children, she had such regal composure and was the woman we knew as “mama.”