Senior witnessed MLK ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ is now living COVID-19 nightmare

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An older black woman mournfully looks out her window

By Francis Taylor, Senior Writer

The Inglewood City Council did not meet this week so I thought I would share a few thoughts from a senior citizen’s perspective related to what we are all experiencing:

I remember attending the March on Washington when Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the “I Have a Dream Speech,’ when I was a thirteen; my first trip to Europe, sailing on the Queen Elizabeth from New York to Le Havre, France, when I was 16; being denied a college graduation ceremony from Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, when the school was abruptly shut-down two weeks before the end of the semester because of student unrest related to Vietnam War protests in 1971; and a lifetime of memorable experiences. However, I do not remember or have ever experienced anything like what my Inglewood neighbors and I are experiencing now with Covid-19.

The Inglewood Senior Center is shut down for the second week in a row. Those of us who looked forward to the daily food and fellowship that was available during the 12:00 noon lunch that was offered to a room full of senior citizens, have been forced to enjoy their meals at home, and often alone, with the generous efforts on the part of City of Inglewood staff members who, have been delivering one week’s worth of meals to registered seniors to their homes every Monday.

Many of Inglewood’s seniors visited the Senior Citizen’s Center as regularly as our more youthful friends and family members went to work or school each business day. From bingo and dance classes to knitting, table tennis, card playing and billiards, the center provided a daily outlet for seniors to socialize, learn, laugh and converse with old friends and to make new ones.

As one can imagine, having a conversation with a senior citizen often provides a curious individual with a glimpse into history and sharing a meal and exchanging pleasant conversation with Inglewood’s senior citizens has been enlightening, inspirational and fun for this writer.

One of the most notable experiences was meeting a woman who was a gold medal track and field winner in the Olympics where John Carlos and Tommy Smith defiantly raised their fist with black gloves when they accepted their gold and silver medals. For me to learn of the discussion the Black Olympic athletes had inside the Olympic Village before and after that historical display of protestation was fascinating, providing information that would not have been available to me were it not for the Inglewood Senior Citizen Center.

Remembering my college graduation from Hampton, the historically Black college that was founded in 1868 to provide education to freedmen, and the fact the my class of 1971 was the only class that had not been permitted to have a graduation ceremony in the schools’ history, makes me note the fact that thousands of 2020 graduates from across the nation and around the world, will also, always remember that that this is the year when they were all denied a formal graduation ceremony. Covid-19 has forever changed life as we know it.

Social Distancing has become the new normal for seniors and others throughout the City of Inglewood and indeed the nation. As the death toll continues to rise, it is my sincere hope that everyone, especially my senior colleagues (65 and older) adhere to the warnings our elected officials announce daily to stay safe and alive! And, as Dr. King said, “we may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

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