Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day in the United States and I wanted to share a few experiences from my life that relate to civil rights. We’ll start with my hometown of Kansas City, Kansas. It sits on the Missouri river and there is a large African American population that dates back to the days of slavery in the United States. Missouri was a slave state and Kansas was a free state. Slaves would swim the river to gain their freedom and they settled in Kansas City, Kansas.
My high school was an all-black school in the year before I attended. The state courts ordered desegregation and the school became a magnet school. Students from all over the city were given academic tests and those with the highest scores could attend the magnet school. Our school was segregated and we were pushed hard academically.
I was lucky enough to attend a convention in the early 80s where the featured speakers were George HW Bush (then Vice President) and Bishop Desmond Tutu. It was amazing to hear these two men speak, especially Bishop Tutu.
Now let’s fast forward to the present day. I was introduced to a local man who had met Nelson Mandela soon after he was released from 27.5 years in prison. Four years after they met, Mandela was elected President of South Africa in a historic election. The election was filled with turmoil and an entire truckful of ballots (see photo of a portion of the ballot above) was hijacked in hopes of preventing people from voting. There were still enough ballots for everyone to vote, but this truckful of ballots was discovered soon after the election.
South Africa then auctioned off the ballots and the man I met was the winner of the auction. While he had a Web site when I met him, it needed a lot of work. I’ve put in a number of hours on a new site already and there are still many more hours of work to do. In our meetings and the research I’ve done for the Web site, I’ve learned much more about Nelson Mandela than I previously knew.
I’m not a huge history buff, but I have to admit holding one of the authentic ballots used to elect Mandela is pretty cool. It is unlike the ballots we have in the United States as pictures of each of the 19 candidates are shown on the ballot next to the party name. Yes, his site sells the unmarked ballots if this is something that interests you. Even if you aren’t interested in purchasing a ballot, it is worth looking at the site as I’ve posted graphics that show the line where Mandela appears along with the watermarking present on the ballot to protect it from counterfeiting. From a graphics standpoint, I thought that was very interesting.
As the United States takes a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, take a moment to think about the experiences in your life related to civil rights.