40 years ago the world suffered the loss of a brilliant life, a life full of vision, dedicated to peace, filled with eternal hope. A life credited with numerous accomplishments and honors including raising public consciousness and inspiring the civil rights movement throughout the United States. Left behind: a powerful legacy, permanently woven into the fabric of humanity, the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King’s vision inspired change, reflected in our present day world. The number of single individuals who have impacted so many lives are few and far in between. Yet today we remember not his life, but Dr. King’s death as the impact of a single bullet had on today’s future. The moment of impact is pivotal to the human condition as we personalize each and every experience. However, as hard as I try, I cannot recall my relationship with the “moment of impact”, the moment his death was announced, my feelings, my thoughts. I can intellectualize the collective consequences, but do not remember my moment in time, this day, 40 years ago. I was alive, yes, only 18 months in this world, not sure if I realized what had just happened.
On this particular April 4th, the morning started out like many others for me. I got myself up quite early, made a nice frothy double cappuccino and started the morning school preparations for my son. After getting him off to school, I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures, watching Democracy Now with Amy Goodman on satellite TV before I start work. As this morning, marked the anniversary Dr. King’s assassination, I watched Amy interview the Reverend, Jesse Jackson recall his experience of that evening at the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis Tennessee 40 years before. Jesse Jackson wove the chronological events through the filter of his own memories and emotions, expressing a highly charged recollection of that evening. He told Amy that he has often ran this exact memory like a movie in his head, over and over, throughout the past 40 years. He confided, that experience and has served as an inspiration to him throughout his life.
This was the catalyst, which sparked my desire to have my own memory, which simply did not exist. My mind drifted to the 5×7 glossy photograph of Dr. King that was stuck on my refrigerator for the last 4 years with an “art” magnet. That photograph was given to me by a friend – activist, John Schroder one month before he passed away from suffering a massive heart attack. I remembered how odd it was that evening he knocked on my door to say hello, to give me the gift of that photograph for no other reason except he was inspired to do so. I remembered just a few weeks before that, he gave Miro and I a ride back to our car, which was parked at the beginning of the route of the peace march, a mile from where we currently where. I remembered fondly what I knew of this man. John Schroeder was a man who danced with the Native Americans, worked with fossils, made art and dreamt of peace. It was a beautiful memory, yet still not a memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, which I so desired to experience in this moment.
It was still early so I decided to call my mom, who is never surprised by the immediacy of my curiosity, my strange questions, and my apparent randomness. So when I asked her what she was doing 40 years ago, what she felt when she found out MLK was killed and what impact that day, had on her, she immediately said, she couldn’t remember that day 40 years ago, let alone what she had for lunch the day before. But that was just the intellect speaking… which soon stepped aside to allow the memories flow back.
At the time, my mom was a young woman in her mid 20’s, solely responsible for taking care of two very young children. I was 18 months old at the time and my brother was just a month old. My mom started talking about the Peace and Justice movement, which she was active in, if only peripherally during this time. A couple of years before, she received her degree from UCLA in political science and both her and my father were stuck smack in the middle of the 60’s hippie culture. The Vietnam War was in full swing, acid tests happening in San Francisco and there had been a string of recent assassinations, both JFK and Malcolm X. She spoke a bit about the overwhelming realization of numbness to yet another assassination, and thought somberly that there were violent times and the world simply isn’t safe.
Then I recalled my own experience with my newborn son, Miro. He was just under a month old when the Columbine tragedy happened. I remember watching the news in horror and wondering how the world could be so cold, uncaring and violent. I remember looking into my son’s eyes and promising him I would do whatever I could to protect him and make this world a safer place for him. I remember thinking, you are safe now, here, in my arms, only soon the real world will touch your reality. It was only a few weeks before I had to go back to my job at DEN and my son became intertwined in the world and I had to believe everything was going to just fine. That realization had an impact on me 9 years ago, and was as profound then as it is now, this morning April 4, 2008.
Although I have no recollection of my feelings the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was taken from this earth, I was touched by his life in so many ways. From the most obvious, his achievements and vision changed the course of history, paving the way for greater social justice and a powerful equal rights movement. However, this morning, his death serves to remind me how interconnected we all are, how all of our experiences are tied to one another and our perceptions are what make this reality connected through these thoughts and experiences. The human condition is contained in a fragile universe yet it is equally robust with possibilities, infinite in nature.
And yes, I am reminded of the power of perception. As branders, designers, advertisers we are entrusted with creating the message. That is of vital importance. I suppose this reminder is at the core of what we do here every day at jungle  and the inspiration for our professional mission.
Authentic messaging, why? Because what we place into the stream of consciousness is what matters most.