Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MLK Day, 2 Days Later

This is a few days late...but then again, it's not like I had Monday off or anything. I think it's good to take a moment to commemorate the memory of a truly remarkable man. And, really, it's not just his memory that is commemorated, but all those who worked with him to change the way America treated its citizens. I don't claim to be an expert on Civil Rights, but I think that's just the point--so much of the recent history of America has been shoved under the rug by the "establishment," not to sound too much like a 60s radical (or for that matter, suburban, rich kid skater).

79kinggrave_2 I went to Atlanta when I was working on their Downtown plan in 2003. One part of this was for the Sweet Auburn district--a historically black business area, for, you know, when they weren't allowed to eat in white restaurants. It is also the area where King was born and is now buried. He preached at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and another church--Big Bethel AME--was a center of the Civil Rights movement. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was headquartered there. Auburn Avenue is the location of the King Center, which commemorates King's life and is the location of his tomb.

I learned all of this during the project. I admitted to a prominent black community leader who had been active during the Civil Rights movement that I didn't even know King was born or buried in Atlanta . Embarrassing. Shameful, really.


I learned a lot more during my more recent trip to Memphis. I visited the Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the former hotel where King was shot.

The museum's many issues aside (lots to read, ending was a bit odd), we were glad we went. It really drove home the sacrifices people made to strive for equality. It made me question my own role in effecting change. I really admire King, and not just King, but everyone who put Civil Rights ahead of the safety of themselves and their families. We all owe them a lot. Though I don't think I could ever be that brave, I hope that I can at least stand up for what I believe and know is right and just whenever I can.

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