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Episode 1

” In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital
to cash a check. When the architects of our
republic wrote the magnificent words of the
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Memphis, Tennessee, August 28, 1963

“Marcus, there’s no place to sit,” Rob grumbles,
peering into the dimly-lit elementary school
gymnasium.

It is a sea of people, some talking excitedly,
some sitting quietly in metal folding chairs,
pensive, lost in thought. Waiting anxiously.

Rob scans the crowd, his eyes dancing
across the myriad shades of brown in their
faces, ranging from tawny sand to the deepest
mahogany. Here and there sit a few pale,
peachy-pink faces, but the crowd is largely
Negro.

“So we stand,” Marcus shrugs, looking casually
around. “Gareth said he was coming; I don’t
see him… Wait, there’s Aaron. I know him, come
on,” Marcus tugs Rob’s jacket sleeve and they
weave their way through the crowd towards
Marcus’s friend.

“I don’t understand why we can’t just watch this
on TV at home,” Rob mutters, and Marcus
shushes him.

As they make their way through the throng,
Rob is expecting to get strange looks, maybe
even accusatory stares. I was afraid that I would
feel like the enemy here, but everyone seems…
accepting. They’re looking, but not staring.

“Aaron!” Marcus exclaims, tapping a very short,
very slender black man on the shoulder.

“Hey, Marcs, what’s shakin’, Irish?” Aaron says
brightly, holding his palm out flat.

Marcus slaps it, then clasps his hand briefly.

“Thought we’d come out and join the party,” he
says. “This is my friend, Rob.”

“Hey, Robbie, nice to meet ya,” Aaron greets him,
and Marcus chuckles as he watches Rob try
not to bristle at being called “Robbie.”

“Good to meet you, too, Aaron. I, um, prefer
Rob, though.” He shakes the small man’s
hand warmly and smiles equally warmly, to
soften the blow.

“Ain’t no thing, man, just keepin’ it loose,” Aaron
shrugs.

“Have you seen Gareth?” Merlin asks.

“Naw, man, he ain’t gon’ be here. He won’t
close up his place,” Aaron laughs.

“He said he was coming,” Marcus mumbles,
hugging the wall briefly as a young couple
sq££zes past him, muttering their “excuse
me”s as they pass.

“Shut up, the lights are going down,” Rob
prods Marcus, and they attempt to get
comfortable in the back corner of the crowded
gym.


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