Colin Luther Malcolm X Jr.

Colin Luther Malcolm X Jr.

A Story by Toney Vega

A remembered event essay I wrote for my english class in 11th grade.


The air around me was warm, surrounding me much like a blanket in my grandma's kitchen.  My grandma moseyed around the table, maneuvering her robust frame through the narrow crevices created by the old, wooden chairs.  Opposite her, I went about my job of putting away groceries with the enthusiasm typical of seven-year-old children.  To me, a carrot wasn't simply a vegetable, it was like fine china only the most worthy could handle.  The oven was open, its door spread wide to allow some of the heat to chase away the winter chill.
We didn't utter a sound as we went about our tasks with the utmost focus.  We both enjoyed our silence.  There was something serene about this sort of company; it was almost like we had a completely different relationship that could only be felt, not heard.  On second thought, our silence was probably due to the television my grandma turned on as she sucked in her stomach for another pass through the chair-made grotto.  It was time to watch the news.
The usual blur of reports droned through the vintage speakers while the picture slowly came into focus.  I could hear a man speaking to a large crowd, then after a few seconds the picture finally became clear; unfortunately all I saw was a fading image of the Washington Monument.
I continued on with my chores, oblivious to the significance of the day.  All I knew was that I didn't have school earlier and that was all that really mattered.  After a word from their sponsors, the anchors went on with their usual discourse.  Murder this, missing child that, congratulations all around humanity, way to overcome tragedy without being moved emotionally!  Another commercial break followed, then soon after I realized why I didn't have school.
Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
The news came back on and started the next segment with King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  In the clip, the camera panned over thousands of people captivated by King's words.  Watching the clip, I felt as though the entire nation had stopped to listen to this fiery preacher from Georgia.  My grandma and I ended our chores to watch the speech, and as King spoke I beamed with pride (my grandma even got a little teary-eyed).  At that moment I guess we both felt proud of our race since one of our own was speaking so eloquently in front of so many people.  I remember thinking about how great it was to be black, how accomplished I could be simply because of the color of my skin.
Maybe it was all the talks my mom and grandma gave me that made me think of my race as a gimmick; my mahogany complexion would lull white people into a false sense of superiority, then that’s when I’d strike. I would begin to speak and they’d be surprised at how well I could enunciate my words. Then when they got over their first wave of shock, I’d strike again with a large and impressive vocabulary that would send them reeling. For my final blow I’d show wisdom far beyond my years and astound them once more by making socioeconomic problems of the day seem infantile.
            At the age of seven, I was already thinking that maybe if I acted like a white person with a really, really nice tan (living up to my grandma’s credo of “Black on the outside, white on the inside”) then I’d be able to do something great and become immortal like Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X.
            As these Thoughts raced through my head, I had barely noticed the changes happening onscreen. The camera shifted from King’s crowd to petitioners, and the voices changed from shouts of joy and happiness to screams of outrage and pain. I didn’t know it at the time, but this segment that was being aired was a controversial piece entitled “Road to Freedom” in which they showed the highlights of the Civil Rights Movement one momentous even at a time.
            At this point in the segment, they were showing police brutality and I just sat beside my grandma mortified at what I saw. Petitioners in Buckingham were shown running from dogs and sprayed by water hoses. Policemen swung their clubs wildly scoring hits on anyone holding a sign. Countless petitioners were crammed into police cars and taken to jail singing “We Shall Overcome…”
            The idea of race wasn’t new to me when I saw this. I already knew that I was black and that white people largely ran the world. What was so profound about this particular Martin Luther King Day Special was that it made me question where I fit into this world. To this day I still fight with feelings concerning my racial identity and all the connotations and stereotypes attached to it. Should I conform to the majority and separate from Black-America’s culture? Stop listening to rap, watching BET, and limit how much I eat fried chicken and always strive to do things like a white man. In other words: sell-out. Or should I instead strive to become another Afro-centric leader rallying my people to overthrow their white oppressors and liberate themselves? Maybe I should just fall into the stereotypes provided for me; be a ghetto, dead-beat dad who’s some kind of thug/”gangsta” or other form of delinquent. If you take a minute to look around, you’ll see real-world examples of each possibility.
            Colin Powell seems to have gone with the first option of conforming, but even though he is successful he doesn’t seem happy. He never smiled, he seemed to have been completely under Bush’s control as defense secretary, and to me the political cost of that job greatly outweighed any benefits he might have received.
            The poet Heru is a modern-day example of option number two. He’s Afro-centric, he’s radical, but though he seems happy he isn’t very famous. The main problem with this option is that no one really sees an issue with black people needing to rise up out of anything. In today’s society, it seems like the majority of people have generally agreed that black people have no one to blame for their current circumstance but themselves. The majority of black people on the other hand disagree which makes the revolutionary idea even more difficult to accomplish with anything more than a marginal degree of success.
            Finally, gangster rappers are excellent examples of how option number three could work. They’ve successfully glorified the ghetto to the point that people are proud to call it home, they’ve made flagrant sex cool so now we have plenty of babies being born without fathers to take care of them, and they’ve made the “thug life” or “gangsta mentality” acceptable which only serves to raise the death toll of young black males who already have more than enough problems to deal with. So for all the fame and fortune rappers receive, the benefits aren’t worth the destruction they do to their own kind.
            So what’s a man to do when the men around him seem equally as lost (if not more lost) than he is? When there appears to be no one to turn to for the answers he seeks? He simply must find his own path. This is easier said than done I’m well aware, but it seems that the only path best suited for me is one that hasn’t been tried before.
            When I think back to the time I watched the news with my grandmother, I realize now that in many ways that was my great awakening. It was really the first spark that made me confront my own racial identity head-on and how I fit into the multicolored tapestry of the United States. Before that special I was a boy who believed I knew everything, but afterwards I was became something different. Not yet a man, but something stuck in between that and boyish naivety. At that point I knew only one truth, I knew nothing; to a boy who grew up without a father, that was one of the scariest places in the world to be.

© 2009 Toney Vega

Author's Note

Toney Vega
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"To me, a carrot wasn't simply a vegetable, it was like fine china only the most worthy could handle."

I like that sentance before the "great changing" happening, as though after you might have grown up, and didn't do that after, or that became part of your path. It is a great detail to add in at the start. I do think you could cut down the chores part a little. The whole "changing" part is brilliant. Well done!

Posted 13 Years Ago

I loved the flow and writing. The beginning descriptions really helped draw me in and were so beautiful. The rest of it was equally well written and has given me plenty to think about.

Posted 14 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on November 8, 2009


Toney Vega
Toney Vega

Richmond, VA

I'm an 18 year old artist who specializes in music and writing. All of my writing centers around my life at the current moment as both a form of escapism and a way to face things that are bothering o.. more..