Sunday, October 16, 2011

president obama dedicates the martin luther king jr. memorial in washington dc today

I was in Atlanta last weekend. There was a show opening on Friday night, and then I stayed on for a couple of more days.

On Saturday I first spent a frustrating hour trying to find parking downtown. I gave up, and drove over to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. It's an area where within two blocks you'll find a museum, Dr. King's and his wife's graves, his birth home, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King, his father, and maternal grandfather, all preached.

You can only visit Dr. King's birth home as part of a tour. And since US National Park Service run the place, everything is free, and tours are given by park rangers, uniforms and hats and all. Only 15 people are allowed in each tour. I had to come back on Sunday for an open spot.

Through his maternal grandfather Dr. King was born into a wealthy family, and a family that raised children with a lot of foresight. Our ranger told the group that every afternoon little Martin and his two younger siblings would learn a bible verse in addition to doing their homework. Then they dressed "as if they were going to church", and went downstairs to a family dinner that was shared with 20 or 30 poor students and others from the neighborhood.

During dinner the children would take turns standing up, recite their bible verse, tell the group about their day at school, and - and this is what really struck me - last they would speak about what oppression meant to them, what it looked like from their point of view. Every day. Instead of turning away, not wanting to "dwell on injustice" as people sometimes put it, the children were encouraged to see what was happening to them with open eyes, and name it. The ranger who gave the tour stressed how this daily practice helped shape Dr. King into the man he became.

I'm floored by the bravery and honesty of that daily ritual. You have to be able to see what is going on before you can do something about it. And you have to be completely honest about what is really going on, or else you will start believing what others are telling you instead of trusting your own eyes.

Often the Civil Rights era is described as an emotional time. Rosa Parks remained seated on that bus because she "had had enough". Dr. King was "angry". I don't think so. I think that's white society's rhetoric. In reality, a lot of analysis, planning, and organizing led up to what happened in the 1960s. And smart parents instilled habits in their children in the 1930s, that bore fruit in the 1960s.


Anonymous said...

Great post :)

Lotta K said...

Thanks Melissa! I'm glad you like it.