‘Martin Luther King Jr. was here yesterday,’ you would occasionally overhear neighborhood parents on my block proudly proclaim in passing during my elementary school years in mid-1960’s Baltimore, Maryland.
Dr. King was a regular visitor to our family pastor, Rev. Dr. Marion Curtis Bascom, whom the Baltimore Sun described as a “confidante of Martin Luther King Jr.” Rev. Bascom pastored Douglas Memorial Community Church in historic West Baltimore at 1325 Madison Avenue.
His family living quarters at the same address in an adjacent building was three doors down from my family homestead at 1319 Madison Avenue. Within days of my birth, I was christened by Rev. Dr. Bascom, who also officiated my parents’ wedding in the same large, ornate room where he would have hosted Dr. King.
Dr. Bascom’s stewardship of Douglas Memorial would extend 45 years, during which time he accumulated arrests for ‘good trouble’ on behalf of The Movement.
The Bascoms observed an open-door policy toward my family within their home. Rev. Bascom’s very lovely wife, Lutherine, was an exceptional music schoolteacher. His four kids are genuine extended family. As recently as these last eighteen months, I have had contact with the three surviving siblings.
Marion Jr. died prematurely as a very young man. Elder sister, Bernadette, is an Emmy Award winning singer/performer, and adjunct college music professor. Younger son, Peter, whom I credit with introducing me to the highly nuanced game of football as a young kid, is an accomplished yachtsman, and Singleton, a criminal justice professional in municipal government.
During the years when Dr. King regularly visited the Bascom’s, I have never personally witnessed his encounters in their home. However, I have heard personal anecdotes of King’s visits from family members, most of which I’ve retained few details over the years.
The one experience involving Peter, three years my senior, that I vividly recall for the implicit deadpan humor associated with it, was Peter’s description of his first introduction to Dr. King.
An avid Lacrosse enthusiast who played for his school’s team, Peter could be frequently found in his home’s driveway practicing in the presence of his captive audience of one, the family’s bewildered German Shepherd, Heinrich. On one of those occasions, Peter described to me how Rev. Bascom called to him from his den overlooking the driveway and invited him to come meet his “guest.”
“Peter, I would like you to meet my dear friend, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” his dad beamed. Peter very respectfully greeted Dr. King with a nod and handshake, never relinquishing his lacrosse stick from his other hand, which he continued to gently twirl.
After several awkward moments of silence, Peter politely asked has father: “Can I go now?”
The values instilled in me while sitting under the tutelage of Dr. King’s acolyte, Rev. Bascom, whose doctrine mirrored that of King’s in many respects, motivated me towards a career in the Humanities and to serve in whatever capacity I might be helpful to anyone anywhere.
From my first out-of-college job on a school superintendent’s public relations staff where I mentored high school seniors in communications arts; my time as a city councilman’s aide in Newark, New Jersey helping homeless families find housing; spearheading a racial amelioration campaign in New York City cited in the Congressional Record; initiating and administering [racial] Unity Week in West Palm Beach in 2018, I’ve decided I want to parley my lifetime of experience in an effort that will honor the philosophies of Dr. King and Dr. Bascom on behalf of the underserved.
As a journalist, I have committed myself to research, investigate, examine, and interview circumstances, policies, and people; the responsible and the irresponsible, the beneficial and the derogatory, that either enhances or threatens the lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness of we, the offspring of former slaves, and keep you informed of our progress or lack thereof.
What is your contribution to furthering Dr. King’s legacy and uplifting the downtrodden who were his main constituency? Please contact the editor of this publication to share your thoughts on how we might be able to further lift up us. Your ideas could be worth writing about?
PS: It is a little-known fact that Rev. King was scheduled to visit Baltimore in March 1968, but traveled instead to Memphis, Tennessee to support striking garbage workers where he was assassinated days later, April 4, 1968.
I could never have imagined that in 2018, exactly 50 years and eleven days later, serendipity would bring together Dr. King’s son, Martin 3rd, and my son, Reginald Jourdan Taylor, in Baltimore, completing a cycle in the long, transcendent arc of history.