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  • Writer's pictureGeorgie Davis

The Dreamer

Atlanta, Ga. April, 1968

I saw a man lying in a long box, his face adorned with dark makeup carefully applied around his lower right jaw. Daddy said an evil man had shot him.

After all these years, the scene remains etched in my mind with remarkable clarity. Although too young to understand the significance of my earliest recollection or the depths of pain and injustice it represented, it stands as a reminder that our experiences, even the ones we cannot fully grasp, shape the very core of who we become.

We stood outside Spelman Chapel in Atlanta, Georgia, with thousands of others, determined to reach the front door. The line began at the compound's entrance and wound around brick buildings and under cover of blooming dogwoods. People moved forward at a snail's pace. Unconcerned about where or why we were there, I thought about the ice cream shop we passed earlier while we eased bumper-to-bumper along the road leading to the Atlanta University Center Consortium.

My mouth watered, and I imagined the sweet cream on my tongue. "Strawberry, please," I would say if given the option.

Earlier that morning on Palm Sunday, 1968, we attended Holy Temple Church, an all-Black congregation, where Daddy had been invited to speak. Like us, many who waited in line that afternoon wore church attire. Uniformly, the men in the crowd sported fedoras with dark suits while the women donned black dresses and long white coats.

Bertie and I were three and four. We looked like Irish twins with our short blond hair—hers curly, and mine straight—and bright blue eyes. Our outfits matched: black and white checkered print jumpsuit dresses, white socks laced at the top, and Mary Jane's—shiny black shoes on our feet. Our young family must have stood out like a sore thumb as we nestled in the crowd consisting primarily of Black Americans, with only a speckling of other Whites. When we entered the building, we waited our turn while individuals moved ahead in groups of five or six. Reflective music echoed from the organ. Solemn faces surrounded us as sniffles echoed through the room.

My eyes fixated on the glass panel that separated us from the top half of a man lying in the heavily lacquered wooden box.

When we finally reached the front of the chapel, Daddy gently nudged Bertie and me forward, positioning us at eye level with a casket. My eyes fixated on the glass panel that separated us from the top half of a man lying in the heavily lacquered wooden box. His skin and clothes were dark, and he rested on a bed of fluffy white fabric as if asleep. Amidst hushed whispers, I found myself sandwiched between a sea of adults, their hands reaching out to touch the glass above his face.

Some even kissed it.

Others waited to get a glimpse, so Daddy released my fingers from his grip and pushed Bertie and me toward the foot of the coffin. I saw him retrieve a white handkerchief from his front pocket and wipe his eyes. He grabbed his camera that hung around his neck and clicked a few pictures. People pressed in harder. I was anxious, hot, and wanted ice cream. "Daddy, Daddy," I whined.

Satisfied with his picture-taking, Daddy clasped my hand again, and Mommy took Bertie's. We squished through the doorway, passed the people still waiting in line, and approached the gate where our car was parked outside.

While we walked toward the car, it seemed like the time to ask. "Daddy, can we get ice cream?"

Bertie remained silent, her countenance sad, as if she had grasped something about the occasion I had missed.

"Please, can we get ice cream?" I persisted. Mommy nudged Daddy and insisted I had been too good not to fulfill my request.

At the ice cream shop, Daddy asked what flavor I wanted.

"Strawberry, please."

Bertie chose chocolate.

While we savored each lick, Daddy drove to the east side of Atlanta, where his brother, my Uncle Bill, and my Aunt Louise lived. Daddy sat around all evening discussing the man we had seen in the casket with Uncle Bill.


"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dreamer," Daddy said, and he never tired of talking about him. Almost every life situation seemed to reference "King"—his character, courage, and resolve—that his "four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

This was Daddy's dream, too—to see a change in the hearts of people.

Despite growing up in South Carolina, one of America's most racially segregated states, Daddy saw no distinction in color, especially regarding his belief about man's need for a Savior. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," he'd often quote from scripture.

~ an excerpt from my WIP

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