black history month, martin luther king

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When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, he was met by nearly 250,000 people. Traveling from all over the country to participate in the March on Washington, this crowd became part of one of the most iconic and pivotal moments in civil rights history.

Joining those thousands at the Lincoln Memorial was Ledger Smith, a 27-year-old athlete and entertainer who traveled all the way from Chicago … on roller skates.

Ledger’s story might be lesser known, but it’s an inspiring one.


As a semiprofessional skater, Smith, better known as “Roller Man,” was known for his impressive tricks.

Deciding to really put his skills to the test, Ledger skated 685 miles, from Chicago to Washington, D.C. … for 10 straight days. My legs are sore just thinking about it.

When a 1963 publication of the Baltimore Afro-American asked him why, Smith replied that it was “to dramatize the march,” adding that he “did it in the slowest way.”

To prepare for his journey, Smith ran 5 miles every day for two weeks prior. And after skating for 10 hours a day for a little over a week, he arrived having lost 10 pounds.

black heroes

"Roller Man" Ledger Smith.

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Wearing a freedom sign across his chest, Ledger helped spread inspiration along his route. He wasn’t always met with encouragement. At one point a man had tried to run him down with a car in Fort Wayne, Indiana, according to a radio interview with WAMU.

Still, Ledger was also met by well wishers. The Afro-American reported that many people along the highway, some of them white, wished Ledger good luck, saying that they’d see him in Washington.

Determination (and incredible stamina) overcame the obstacles. Because on Tuesday, Ledger arrived, “sore, aching, but hoping he was 700 miles closer to freedom,” according to the report.

Ledger met up with his wife—who decided to go the more traditional route and travel by train—along with celebrities, activists and protestors to take part in the massive March on Washington. The couple witnessed firsthand the words that would become a beacon of hope for the future, and an emblem of black resilience.

Following nine other speakers, King had only planned on being at the podium for four minutes. But when prompted by gospel star Mahalia Jackson to “tell ‘em about the dream,” he stood on stage and spoke for 16 minutes. Though the speech notably ties in themes from the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare and the Bible, its most famous section was completely improvised.

Full of poetry and vigor, King challenged his community to “not wallow in the valley of despair,” and painted the picture of “walking together as sisters and brothers,” where King called it his dream, but it was Ledger’s dream too, along with countless others who arrived that day.

Ledger’s journey to Washington powerfully symbolizes the great lengths that African Americans had endured, were enduring—and still are enduring—to attain equality. But for Ledger, and the thousands that joined him, no distance was too great, if the long road leads to “free at last.”

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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