I’m just a girl from the Bronx. I was raised on the 5th floor of a tall building in NYC that was and is still sinking. I have one sister, my parents are divorced. I went to public school.
My parents wanted more for me, wanted me to have all the opportunities, the best education. So, my Hispanic mother sent me and my older sister to Spelman College in the deep South to learn about being African-American women.
When I got there, Dr. Johnnetta Cole was president and I thought, “Wow, she’s smart and in charge.”
I had no idea about her history, her writings, what she was going to teach me. I had no idea that I should know.
To be quite honest, I didn’t know a lot about African-American history. I was never really taught about it in depth in NYC public schools and my mom was working three jobs to keep our house afloat. My weekends with my dad were spent watching Wide World of Sports and going to Woolworth’s.
So, the first time I went to the King Center on Auburn Avenue and sat at the reflecting pool staring at Dr. King’s tomb, I had an overwhelming sense of grief, fear of inadequacy, gratefulness, pride, shame, sorrow and desire to be better, do better and learn more.
It was on that day, as a Spelman College student, I decided I would read about what I didn’t know, I would become an activist for my values and beliefs, I would speak out when I could and when appropriate. I would become more aware of myself, my history, my place, my eventual contribution.
That girl from the Bronx, the Spelman College graduate, the attorney, the mother, the radio host…the caring citizen and activist I strive to be every day, arrived at Union Station on August 24, 2013 for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. And we were all so happy to be there!
We had on flip flops for comfort (and OK, for style – they were Michael Kors after all!)
And as usual, the angels that follow me around on my adventures made sure that spectacular things happened.
I approached the press booth to pick up my media credentials after a very long walk, and my name was not on the list. BUT, there was a woman who recognized me and said: “Are you Mo Ivory?” To which I replied, with relief, “Yes.”
She escorted me to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial ahead of all the press risers and people that were seated.
Right at that moment, I ran into my friend Tameka Mallory – who is the Executive Director of National Action Network – who took me to the next perfect viewing spot, where I was now standing next to Bernice King!
Wait – it gets better. Rachel Noerdlinger, one of my very best friends, is in charge of all press for National Action Network and she spotted me at the bottom of the steps and quickly came to get me.
I was now standing at the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where the speaker podium was. I was next to Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, C.T. Vivian, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Steny Hoyer, Congressman Lewis, Trayvon Martin‘s family and numerous other dignitaries.
Again – in flip flops!
I never expected to be at the top of the podium in the VIP VIP VIP area!
Lesson learned. “Focus Mo, get over it!”, I say to myself. “You are a part of history; no one is looking at your feet!”
Speech after wonderful speech, I began to focus on the moment in time I was experiencing and reflecting on my journey from my day of weeping at Dr. King’s tomb to being at the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial listening to his son deliver a new speech about his dreams on this 50th anniversary.
Tears began to roll down my face as my self-awareness began taking its full circle.
It was at that moment that I looked down and realized my right flip flop had fallen off my foot onto the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I wanted to burst into laughter, but of course I could not. I felt like me and my flip flops were having our very own unique experience at this monumental event that was allowing my heart a lightness I really needed as I stared into the eyes of Trayvon Martins’ mother and father. Into the eyes of the elders who had been at the original March on Washington 50 years ago.
After the actual re-enactment of the original March down Independence Avenue – to which I had another wonderful spot in history (click on the picture below to see my photo gallery) – I returned to my hotel and ceremoniously washed my flip flops down, removing the dirt of history I had experienced.
Before going to sleep, I viewed the pictures on my iphone and smiled at the girl from the Bronx sitting at the top of the steps, viewing history. I’m proud of her.She’s trying to do the best she knows how to do and leaving the rest up to the angels.
Thank you Martin Luther King, Jr. for your sacrifice, your dreams and your inspiration.
My experiences and my flip flops are now a piece of my history.
- Mo Ivory, CBS Local