For my birthday in 2014, I was still living in Atlanta. Melo flew in and we visited the newly opened National Center for Civil and Human Rights. We were excited to see how the center had decided to curate the era of the civil rights struggle as well as human rights issues from around the world. One of my human rights law professors at Agnes had also helped train the staff at the museum.
We got there late in the afternoon not realizing that the center closed at 5pm instead of 6pm, so we only had about an hour and a half to take a look around. The civil rights installation at the center is completely interactive with audio/video of the march on Washington, a simulated lunch counter experience, and a display of all the Jim Crow Laws in the US at the time of the movement. The most striking image for me was a captured picture of MLK, Jr. lying on the ground shortly after being shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. The center also features exhibits on the global human rights movement, Atlanta’s LGTBQ rights movement, and the Morehouse College MLK, Jr Collection of personal papers and artifacts.
It was a very emotional experience rich with history that will take more than one visit to take it all in. So emotional in fact, that I had to withdraw from fully taking in a lot of the exhibits. I didn’t feel like I was emotionally prepared to handle it all at one time. If you ever find yourself in the Atlanta area, you should definitely plan a day to take in all that the center has available. We didn’t get a chance to see the personal papers and artifacts on display in the bottom level; that’s for next time for sure!
Today, MLK, Jr. day is marked as a day of service around the country. While at Agnes, there were plenty of opportunities to get involved with service projects off campus through this initiative. Now that I’m in LA, I definitely wanted to be able to continue serving my community in some way. A few months ago, a friend tipped me off to an organization that helps mentor high school girls and guides them through the college application process. This organization, WriteGirl La, has a 100% success rate in regards to all their mentees getting accepted and enrolled into college. Wow! A 100% success rate is nearly unheard of in the non-profit world. Mentorship happens through writing workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and in-school workshops. Writing was the magic word for me since it’s something I’ve always loved to do, so I applied to be a mentor. I also volunteer with the education team; we’re the ones who help juniors and seniors through the college application process. WriteGril LA was also recently recognized by FLOTUS Michelle Obama in 2013 for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Early last year, founder Keren Taylor was recognized as a CNN Hero.
MLK, Jr left behind a legacy of service, justice, and beloved community that is alive and well today. It can be found in the cracks and crevices of city streets, small windows of community buildings and churches, and in the classroom of liberal arts colleges, as well as many other places. His work in the civil rights movement has inspired–and continues to inspire–individuals across the globe to action. Today is not just a day off from work or school, but a day to commemorate the life of a man who died for a cause. It is also a day to practice a little self-reflexivity so that we can honor those who have already struggled by contributing to the conversation, the movement, and the action.
How have you decided to serve?