I’m sitting in the Atlanta History Center after having just viewed the Martin Luther King Jr. papers, which include many of his speeches, sermons, and annotated books.
What is so amazing about viewing these documents? His notes. His sermons and speeches each contain a number of revisions that show King’s constant search for improvement of both himself and his message.
These past few days we have visited Dr. King’s home, his birthplace, his final resting place, his church…we’ve even met a man who marched with Dr. King, whose friends died fighting for justice, equality.
I ask myself what this means in a nation where so much time and energy was spent on hatred and misunderstanding. The land of the free? I think not. But certainly the home of the brave. What these men and women have done, following in the nonviolent traditions from Mohandas Gandhi, was no less than extraordinary. But it should never have been necessary.
This trip has been a roller coaster of elation, love, warmth, hatred, violence, and death. Seeing videos of lynchings juxtaposed against the lovingly erected memorials of Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King leaves too little room for escape. It’s too hard to forget, it has to be carried, and the load is heavy. You begin to see what they were fighting for, and why they fought so hard, and why people continue to fight.
Yet the truth is, I’m having one the best weeks of my whole life. I’ve met so many wonderful people and grown closer to ones I had already known. We’ve seen so much. It is truly amazing how a college course or class trip can completely expose your inadequacies as a human being. I’d thought I was doing pretty well in that department, but I’ve found I still have work to do. I’ve spent so much time focusing on ridding my life of hate that I overlooked its subtler forms of assumption and misunderstanding.
Last night, we ate at the home of [MXI Assistant Director] Amina McIntyre and her mother, the Rev. McIntyre. We had a wonderful time eating, telling stories, singing, reciting poetry, and learning about love. The McIntyre home is full of warmth and appreciation for the human spirit in all of its intricacies and differences: a theme present throughout this journey. I can say that on one warm winter evening in the living room of near strangers, I felt loved, understood, and welcome. I can only hope to someday repay these kindnesses present throughout this week and throughout my life through my own actions understanding, and purpose.
Read more from the African-American Rhetoric immersion trip.