by Pamela Hill Metz
I was born in 1958. When I was six months old in a stroller, my mother walked six blocks, while pregnant with my sister, to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech in Los Angeles in 1959. He spoke to her and others who waited in line to meet him. He told her she would “go far in life.”
In 1963, my mother explained to me that it was our President who was assassinated and interrupted my cartoons. She explained this was why she was crying. I was 6 years old the summer the Watts riots started. My mother piled all 4 of her children and our father into our old but reliable car.
She told my father to start driving up Imperial Highway, but when we reached Imperial and Wilmington, there was a brand-new Safeway supermarket on fire. I asked my mom why all these people were standing around watching the store burn down. She told me that they didn’t want anything from white people in their neighborhood. I didn’t understand what she meant, but I knew it was important at the time.
It was 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis. It was only a few months later when she both campaigned for Robert Kennedy and became a poll worker. She met Bobby Kennedy the day before he was assassinated. Again, I remember her crying and asking her why. She explained another Kennedy had died and that this year, we had lost two great and powerful men. I was only 9 1/2 years old.
In 1973, my mother campaigned for Tom Bradley, the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles. She believed in everything he stood for in the City of the Angels. She worked in all of his subsequent campaigns until he retired in 1993. She continued to work in the polls as a poll worker and then a supervisor until she herself retired. She was 70 years old.
My mother is my reason for always standing strong in my beliefs, pressing for racial equity and inclusion in both the Multicultural Affairs Committee on the national level and Inclusive Diversity of California, our state’s youngest affiliate. She is the reason I have worked so hard in these organizations, always continuing to fight for the cause of social justice, equity, and inclusion of people with visual disabilities from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.