Day 2- Atlanta, Georgia

June 11th, 2017

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The morning started on the bus early, and on the bus we listened to a sermon that King preached. The big points that I took away from the sermon were that often people say that in time, things will get better when it comes to race relations. But there is never a good time for the privilege to work to give up their privilege. I think that is important to remember, and it is interesting that King said things like this from the pulpit. The next thing King talked about was how a lot of people will say that the black people don’t need any help, they just need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. King debunked this theory by saying that there isn’t an even playing field. King said it is like telling someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they have no boots. That resonated with me because often people pretend like white people have been more successful than black and brown people just because they work harder and that’s a lie. The opportunities they are born with are completely different. Someone on the trip said that being white is like winning the “birth lottery”. White people did not do anything, and yet they are heard and experience far less oppression than their black counterparts.

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When we arrived we went to MLK’s home church. This was interesting because everything in or near the church was preserved. We went to the home he was born in, the old church, the new church, the reflection pool where MLK and Coretta Scott King tombs are, and a museum built in his honor. The part that impacted me the most was the old church. The church has beautiful stained glass and is a beautiful infrastructure. When we walked in, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I sat down and prayed while hearing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resonating through the room. There is power in his words, and King used the pulpit to give a message of nonviolence. I find that to be so Christ-like. Dr. King was not a poor uneducated black man, and I think that makes his sacrifice so significant. King could have lived a life still facing oppression, but he received a doctorate degree and had education on his side, so he could have made it okay. Instead, he fought with the least of these who really had no voice. That is so significant to me.

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When I saw Dr. King and Coretta Scott King’s graves, I really struggled because I wasn’t feeling too many emotions. Of course, it is touching, and it is important to remember that King knew his life was on the line every time he went out and he kept going out. I think that I have become so desensitized to the deaths of black and brown people that it takes an Emmett Till image to really pull at my heartstrings. Isn’t that horrible? The death of black and brown men is no longer surprising to me. I think this trip challenged me in that way. Hurting for each black man who has died is tiring, but everyone deserves that. If my brother or father died, I wouldn’t want people to be unphased. It’s unnatural not to feel when faced with the brutal deaths that people experience for no reason besides the color of their skin or the fight for basic human rights.

 

IMG_2167MLK has such a large area dedicated to him, and I think he deserves it. I think a lot of other people deserve it too. The Civil Rights movement is often boiled down to two or three names, but there were so many people and no matter how small of a role they played, they knowingly put their lives at risk, and deserve that credit. This is something I continue to reflect on throughout the tour. One of the small moments I       appreciated in this part of my day was a tour guide named Sunshine. Every day from 9-5, she volunteers at the fire station that Martin Luther King Jr. played at, and she had so much passion for what she was talking about, and she never stopped smiling. To volunteer every day doing the same thing, and still keep a positive attitude with a goal of making everyone feel special was really something I enjoyed and will remember about today.

 

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We then went to Georgia State University and heard from two speakers. Dr. Glenn Eskew talked about the South and the appeal of slavery and Jim Crow in the Confederacy. It was fascinating to me how slavery came with economic benefits and how often people in higher up places used racial tensions to keep them the black and white lower class apart. His lecture was full of history, and explained some of the South’s motives that are less talked about but NEVER justified slavery or segregation which i think is important and challenging to do. Dr. Eskew clearly knew what he was talking about and that was present when we asked him questions, which he gave quite insightful answers to.

Following Dr. Eskew, Juanita Jones Abernathy spoke to us all. This was amazing because she and her husband were close friends with Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. The way she talked about them was like old friends. This was such a cool experience, that not everyone will get. Ms. Abernathy was such a character, and so filled with joy. She talked about how she learned nonviolence from Jesus Christ, not from Gandhi or anyone else. Her inspiration to protest nonviolently was because of Jesus as her example. It was interesting because she said that she doesn’t pledge to the flag because she still doesn’t have justice, but she still had so much American pride. I don’t normally see those things together, and it was kind of confusing but humbling because she played such a huge role in America’s history. I think though America’s history is messy, it’s inspiring that she has found pieces of America to love while she stood in the face of oppression. Ms. Abernathy said she loves America because she has the right to protest when she is upset with something being done, and one of my favorite quotes was, “I love America with all her mess”. She has seen change and holds onto hope for more. Ms. Abernathy was a participant in nearly every march in the 60’s and was one of the first people involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This is such an opportunity, and her joy was straight from the Lord, and that made me appreciate it even more.


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