Had he lived, Martin Luther King Jr. would be only 84 today. Sadly that is an age at which many of his contemporaries now enjoy being wise elders and grandparents. Instead, of course, he was assassinated—though his ideas and influence have only continued to live and grow since. It is a good day to remember the past and acknowledge both how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go.
Several years ago Liz and I were fortunate to visit both his home in Atlanta and, in Montgomery, his church. We also helped celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Southern Poverty Law Center which has built on and expanded much of the work Dr. King started. The week included time with Julian Bond and Morris Dees both of whom have long played key roles in the struggle for justice.
The Center’s Civil Rights Memorial, designed by Maya Lin, commemorates many of the martyrs who died in that struggle, including Dr. King. Putting my fingers in the waters and reading the names brought both tears and memories.
Today is a day to remember and, for me, to again look for at how I can continue to help the world be a more just place for all.
John I learned a lot more about this man when I was teaching fifth grade at Ralya and showed a long movie about his life. I never really got it when all of that was going on. It was a scary time and I was busy with three little kids. During the Detroit riots (no kids then) Jerry was at his two week summer camp with the National Guards. I was up there with him at Blue Lake for the weekend. We had heard no news and on Monday morning we were pulling back into Camp Grayling only to see to my horror everyone dressed, picking up, moving equipment onto the trucks and we asked his cousin Larry what was going on. He said we were at war! My stomach jumped and quivered for days. I thought he meant with another country. Then he explained. That was frightening too as I had seen so many riots on TV in San Fransisco, Chicago and other places. I was absolutely numb. I drove home praying, terrified and confused. What the hell was happening in our country. Well years later, seeing that movie helped me to understand how horrible it really was, how the blacks were trying to get their point across peacefully and how hatefully they were treated. I remember coming to MI from MA and as we headed south on that trip seeing two drinking fountains. One had a sign that said whites only. The other had a sign that read coloreds only. I was shocked. We didn’t know about this inMelrose. I don’t think I had ever known about it. But it filled me with sadness. I can’t remember if I talked about it with Mom at all,but somehow my ten year old mind knew there were unfair things going on out in this world. It was a rude awakening. But, sadly I don’t remember it being discussed. We met many eople of different races and were raised to respect them, but I didn’t really realize that right in our own country the blacks didn’t have the respect they deserved.
Thanks for this remembrance, Sis! Yes, while I feel like we were well prepared for the “real” world, we also, clearly, lived a sheltered life. Learning to be compassionate from mom and dad was a great gift.
i know i’m not much of a “commenter” john..although i look at your photos frequently,they DO blow me away…and DO keep me trying to “open” my eyes….but i really needed to thank you for this posting…for some reason…as children…we were very much aware of what was happening…i think i still have the newspaper clipping from the “birmingham sunday” bombings in my apartment…i really appreciate the “time out to remember”
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Yes, remembering is so important.
Thanks for this, John–I was just listening to Dion sing “Abraham, Martin, and John”, which came out in 1968. The addition of the verse for Bobby Kennedy brought into focus how much was lost in such a short time–John in 1963, Bobby and MLK Jr. in 1968. I love the picture of MLK Jr. with Gandhi’s photograph behind him–and Gandhi fell in 1948 to that same darkness. Your wonderful pictures remind us that people can be killed, but their dreams CAN endure if we remember.
John, Thank you so much for posting this tribute to Dr. King and the Civil RIghts Memorial. Your support, and that of so many others, makes our work possible. It gives me tremendous hope for our future.
Lecia Brooks, SPLC Civil RIghts Memorial Center
Visiting the center, seeing the Memorial and meeting so many of the staff were all important to me. Dr. King has such an influence on so many of us! Thanks for your continued great work there.
Nice post and picture about Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Dr. King’s Birthday! Sharing with you Maya Lin.. http://wp.me/p3bwN9-2X