The past 24 hours seemed a day some people would dream for. It was an interesting chain of historical and not-so-historical events, great and surprising encounters, with a nightmare, though, at the end: I realized that school starts tomorrow (and I had thought that it started in a week).
My Martin Luther King Jr. Eve was unforgettable. Since I would not be able to attend the annual commemoration at my former college due to work, I decided to meet with the keynote speaker of the day – Daryl Davis, who will be talking on CNN tomorrow or sometime this week.
Daryl Davis is a Grammy-winning musician and also the author of a famous book about the racist militant and sometimes terrorist organization Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and his encounters and conversations with Klansmen. The African-American writer has KKK friends, and has even converted many of the robe and hood people to humanhood. His journey in the Klan has been and is his desire to understand and fight racism.
First time I met Daryl last year when he lectured at my former college earlier in 2006. Actually I didn’t meet him personally on that day. But I ended up e-mailing him and told him I enjoyed the lecture and learned a lot. After I finished reading his book, I continued staying in touch.
“How are your films going?” said Daryl yesterday after I finally made it in the snowroad to his hotel and received a friendly hug from my huge friend (he has some stories of fighting with Klansmen – I guess the only time in my life I would feel sorry for those racist pigs). I guess he had taken the time to watch “ForstFree 2024” and “The New Tears of Araxes” on YouTube.
We drove around 30 minutes on the same streets and finally decided to go and have some desert. He told me a story I had read in his book about his encounter with what turned out to be a KKK member. Although I knew the story, it seemed so interesting that I would listen to it over and over again. I guess that is the reason that my former college invited him the second time in 12 months to speak at two different events. You just can’t get enough of Daryl’s adventures and life stories. He is amazing and so is his journey in racist America (during his 2006 lecture he said that from all of the 50 countries he had visited and lived in he felt most racist was his home – America).
But Daryl’s odyssey in the Klan has not always brought him omnipraise. He has been criticized and misunderstood by members of his own black community. I still remember how an African-American girl from my school shockingly told me, “there was a Ku Klux Klan meeting at the college yesterday!” I asked her whether she was there, and then it turned out she was referring to Daryl’s lecture but had not attended it. When I told Daryl the story, he laughed and said that it happens a lot, and that an American college newspaper had written an article about one of his lecture (mis)titling the report “A Klansman Speaks…”
I asked him what state had the most active KKK. Daryl said, “Pennsylvania,” and explained that is was due to economic depression that people in the state are facing. Is there a state that has never had KKK, I asked? “Hawaii,” laughed Daryl.
When I was driving him back. Let me say it again, when I was trying to drive him back and find his hotel (seriously, I made U-turns on the same street 7 times and every time I was sure I was headed to the right direction – I guess Daryl thought I was totally crazy) I asked him what his dream was. As always, Daryl had a sincere answer, “To continue doing what I am doing.” He told me the best thing to do is to do something about things you feel passionate about. “If there is something going on in Armenia,” he referred to my human responsibility and passion, “make a film about it.”
I told him I was not into making films and was actually a Political Science major, but I still agreed to his offer to send me professional movie making software from his home in Maryland.
As he would go back to Maryland in late Martin Luther King Jr. Holliday afternoon, on Tuesday Daryl was going to visit a KKK friend, with whom he celebrated the past Christmas, with the CNN for a program that I forgot the name of. The first part of the CNN interview was going to be conducted in Colorado, today.
I went to work this morning kind of upset for not being able to participate in the annual community breakfast where Daryl was going to speak. As I went to the first floor desks, I saw a group of international students wondering around. I checked the schedule, and saw that this was a group of Japanese and Russian exchange students. Although I had already assigned one of my staff to conduct the tour, I approached the High Schoolers and asked, “Where are you guys from?”
“Japaan,” – was the first answer, followed by my broken “You Kosou Kolorado Kapitolei” (Welcome to Colorado’s Capitol in Japanese). The next welcome was easy when a cute girl answered, “Kazakshtan.” Although my Russian sucks, I guess they understood me. As these kids learned I was from Armenia, they told me there was an Armenian girl in a green coat in their group who had went to the restroom.
As the short girl in the green coat came to the first floor, I turned around and said, “Ia, Lilit jan! Inchqan jamanak a chem. tesel qez: Vonc es?” (Hey, dear Lilith! I have not seen for such a long time. How are you?) The poor thing got confused and didn’t get the joke. After telling me she was from the city of Sisian, she asked me whether I knew where it was. “Is she OK?” – I whispered to myself and said that I had been to Sisian indeed.
They left for the tour after the teacher, Courtney, decided to take my picture with the exchange students with 10 cameras (not so fun).
Very shortly, a lady with a beautiful smile came by (if I didn’t have a girlfriend and if she were 30 years younger that would have been a greater scene) and said, “Are you Simon?”
After getting a positive response, the lady with the beautiful smile said she was the new Lieutenant Governor (like the Vice President) of Colorado (she was sworn in last Tuesday), Ms. O’Brien.
I was surprised at her down-to-the-earthness and niceness. After we talked a bit, the Lt. Governor left.
The next thing I noticed was lot of noise coming from the Capitol rotunda on the first floor. I went to check out what was going on. It turned out that U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) was going to have an announcement about the 2008 election year.
Sen. Allard had promised not to seek a third term long ago, and the announcement would make it clear whether he was going to keep his promise or not. Unlike the infamous Colorado Representative (my own representative) Tom Tancredo, Allard said he had made a promise to the people of Colorado and was going to honor it: he would not be running for a third term. The question is who will run and fill in for this open Senate seat next year.
The press conference had no more than 50 people, but I made enough noise to get all of them mad at me. As he had started to talk, I pulled out my cell phone, stood behind the camera crews and took a photo… with a horrendous digital noise that was much louder than Allard’s voice. Since my phone was on vibrate, I didn’t think it would make a sound while taking a picture.
Right after the Sen. Allard’s announcement I went back to our working stations and saw people marching outside. I knew this was the Marade – the annual MLK Denver parade that despite the horrible cold had gathered 1,200 attendees. Since it was lunchtime, I ran outside and ended up walking down with part of the Marade and took many photos with my cell phone, which you will never see because I don’t use Internet on my phone and therefore cannot transfer them to a computer.
It was such a good feeling to see people marching on MLK day. The black High School bands made you forget about the cold and the snow all around you.
As I was leaving work for home, I saw the Lt. Governor again. We started to talk and I asked her where the governor was (his office was closed, I have never seen it closed before). “He took off to participate in the Marade and sent the rest of his staff to vacation today.”
Enjoy the Honeymoon period, I said to Ms. O’Brien as she confessed that the media had not given her hard time yet.
I was so tired from the stressful discovery that my school in fact starts tomorrow, that I slept on the train the entire way back. But I shouldn’t worry about my classes too much. As one of my senior friends says, “don’t give a poop!”