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Logan Nakyanzi Pollard Headshot

How Do You Translate MLK?

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Martin Luther King
I did not understand
But now I do
How you turned hate into love
Threads of gold
A web of love holding the earth
Thank you
and all the weavers
Of dreams:

When the blanket is broken you patch it
Softly the thread moves like rainbows
Every color
like metal, like water;
Like snow on a mountain.
Grains of sand
Sunrise
Sunset
Leaves and bugs
Tiny yet persistent love
Grows
and sustains.
A mothers' fathers'
Temperance
Patience
Peace
Work
Courage
Love
Abiding
Accepting
Flawed
Perfection
Hands that hold and say
Yes
Open
I will not drop you
I am here
There is hope
And mystery
And healing.

... And if a ship were made to fly
Up in the sky
Like in the stars
And looking back
It'd see these lines
Of color
and champagne bubbles
Of joy
Wrapping us all
Holding it together
Old ropes
From a tree
Snapped
Crackled like hickory sticks
In a flame
Ropes swinging jump rope
Become a flower
Blooming
Unashamed beauty
Unbent
And a bee
A pollination
Undoing ruin.
And life continues
Better.

I asked my father, who is from Uganda, to translate my poem above into Luganda. I wasn't sure why I did this at first.

I was thinking I wanted to somehow symbolize how MLK's dream was and remains a universal one, by talking about him in another language. And certainly the need for healing in the U.S., Uganda and elsewhere was on my mind.

But then I realized -- my dad and mom got married around the time MLK was assassinated and their interracial love was in itself a (unintentional) political statement. Even now, when they talk of that time, there seems to be a shadow of sadness, a horror of how low people could go. But as their child, it's easy for me to see that they won. They beat the odds.

So on Sunday night when they both emailed me back the translation -- an effort so like them, my father dictating, my mother writing -- I realized that I think I wanted this because I wanted to give my parents another language, an alternate version of events. I wanted them to stop mourning that time.

But their joint effort gave me a reminder that love is the greater currency. Hate and division (today as then) is a temporary state of madness that may change forms, but it will eventually fall away. Love is what endures.

Find our words below.

(By the way, "webale nnyo" means "thank you." I love how in English it takes just one line, but in Luganda, much more is involved.)

Logan Pollard Oluhaku olwokujulà Martin Luther King.
Nalisimanyi.
Naye kakati obukjayi manyi.
Bwe wakyensa obukjayi mu kwagala.
Kwo lulimi olwaokukyensa obusenyo mu feeza olukwala ensibyenña.
webalè nnyo!
Okukensa obukyabi mu feesa.
Wunzi eyokwagala.
Wunzzi eýòkwagala.
Wunzì ezolwaga ñoku nokukwa ensi.
Webale nnyo!
Olunako olwo'kujukira Martin Luther King.
Nali simannyi.
Naye kaati manyi.
Bwewakyusa obukyayi okudda mukwagala.
Wunzi ekwata ensi yonna.
Webale nnyo! Okukyusa obukyayi mufeez!
Wuuzi eyokwaga.
Wuuziez'okwagala n'oluwa ensi.
Webale nnyo!
N'okutuuwa ebikoola n'obuwuuka obwenggggeri zona.
Bamaama nebataata baffe okuwuliiza mirembe.

Waliwo okusubilwa n'okuwinya for ebuwuunduamaato bwe ga ga buka wagulu mugenyi nga emunye nye.
Bwe ndba emabega.
Ndba e'nyiriri ga langi ezilwolora nga zitukuuna ffena vy'omuguwa mnnaliro nga nga.
Okyuka mule muri kyotolanga!
N'enkuki obulamu bugenda mmaso n'okusubira.
N'okugwa ebikoolan'ebiwuuka n'obuwuuka.
obutono buliwo okwagala.
Okula n'okukule, Bmaama n'abuba taata okuwuliriz.
Edembe.
Okukol Ndiwano.
Munge gwe simanyi.
Okuwanya ebiwundi.
Okkol.
Okwagala gana.
Ndiwano.
Simanyi bwe natuuka wano.
Jjanjba ebiwundu.
Olwagalganya.
Okuwuliliza.
Okukola.
Okuber n'amanyi.
Okuwagal ny, Ndiwano.
Seng amaatogasobol okubuuka wagulu mu gulu.
Nlag'e munye nye.
Bwe ntunul emabega.
Ndàba enyidiri.
Balaangi.
N'omubisi.
N'essanyu ng zikutuun ffenn nge muguwa.
Okuwaga gana.
Obula mu begend mumàso.
Nga waliwo okusuubi.