Atlanta & Birmingham

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Civil Rights Pilgrimage

[WMNS 222] January 5th, 2014

My thoughts today were dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and his untold story.

This morning, after a rushed breakfast and a quick jot to the waiting bus, we headed to an area that contained several Martin Luther King Jr. landmarks, such as his home, his church, a visitor’s center, and a separate Baptist church that was built in his honor. I was lucky enough to be able to visit all four of those locations. As I was taking a tour at his birthplace, the tour guide told our group of the many things that MLKJ did as a child and how normal he was. Throughout my life, MLKJ was idolized and put on a pedestal. I’m not saying that it should not have been done because he is definitely a man that deserves such treatment, but I never got to hear the human side of his story, how he lived, what his flaws were, and what drove him to be what he became. Visiting his birth home broadened my thoughts and reminded me that everyone is a person and people are not simply born as saints and leaders, but they overcome obstacles to get to where they stand. I now remind myself to not forget that they are human beings, just like me, like us, and we are all working together toward a better future.

At the service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, I was emotionally moved by everyone’s passion toward God and Jesus Christ. The vocalists were excellent at portraying their love and devotion towards God and along the way, driving several college onlookers to tears. During the sermon, topics such as jealousy and baggage were discussed. The pastor told us that we should not be jealous of others successes, but to be happy that God is around us. He also said that each person carries bags, and that it is not our responsibility to carry others. Such as if a person was deprived of a father’s love, that person should not carry that around in their life, and instead, carry their own.

Afterwards, we headed to Birmingham where we toured the Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park. The museum itself was both very well put together and impacting. It only took me halfway through the museum route to start feeling that “feeling” in my chest and almost coming to tears. I don’t know if it was how much I was exposed to the Civil Rights Movement or that I just was not getting enough sleep, but after reading so many quotes and seeing so many awful pictures of segregation, racism, and the violence surrounding it, it just all became too much. I was grateful for all those that were featured in the museum, but also grateful to those  who were not given plaques or had their picture blown up and plastered to a wall, for their contributions are as important as all the others. The world has become a better place because of them, and I am so glad that they achieved what they sought out to do. I hope our generation is as brave and challenges the problems that society faces today.

During our discussion that night, our topic was centered around the church and social status. Why was the movement centered around the church? Well, I believe that because of the church, the people that were a part of the movement were able to meet in a more organized fashion. It also was a time when they could all gather and discuss and let out any emotions that they were feeling. I think that going to church on Sundays was somewhere where everyone could feel safe and protected, with others and under God. The deep passion for the church also reflected on the passion for the movement. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a community that had both lower income families and higher income families separated by a mere street, compared to today when they are separated by “sides of town,” where one group lives on one side, and the other on the other side, completely separated. It was said that this community in which he grew up in deeply influenced him as economic status was not seen as a barrier to him, he believed that people with varying wealth are able to interact. In my neighborhood, us neighbors do not interact. We do not know each others names, we only see glimpses of faces every now and then, but to tell you the truth, I would not be able to recognize my next door neighbor if you put him and me in the same room. This is horrible. I hope to be able to create relationships with people that live around me and definitely have a community of people who support each other and care about one another. I think this type of environment is a very healthy environment to grow up in.

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The Author

A reader, photographer, and writer of all things.

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