Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reflection on Second Day Trip

Guteriano Neves

We started our second day trip with attending ceremony in Baptist Church of Atlanta. This place is important because this is the place where Martin Luther King began to develop his devotion and vocation to fight for the well being of all humanity. Visiting this place is very touching, because we are so welcome into this place. Moreover, visiting this place also help us to understand how people that lived around there had influence on King’s view on the world and society.

After the ceremony, I took a walk around Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. At this place, I can see the importance of the Martin Luther King Jr. which is to some extent, the embodiment of the civil rights movement itself. I can also see the influence of previous figures like Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas to King. Both of them are well-known as the promoter of the non-violence movement.

After reading a lot quotes from King, I begin to realize how important King is to all of humanity in the world. I can see how determined King was to fight for the rights of African American, and to prepare better future for the new generation who would succeed them. Looking at broader scope, King’s determination is not only for the African American, but to the whole world. He is not only civil rights activist, but he is also a great and inspiring leader, orator, humanist, and peace activist.

So the questions are why was Luther King? How different he was? And how important other people around him were to his life, devotion and dedication to change the world? It becomes more ironic when we see that King comes from middle class family, who went to school and got PhD. This question will be answered from my tour to his house.

The tour to his house enlightens me about how his family life was, and the neighbourhood that he was living around. From the story told by our tour guide, the structure of the neighbourhood itself reveals the strong segregation that King experienced at that time. Their house was bought around 1920; it locates in the road side of the middle class African American. But, in the front of his house, there are some houses for the African American people. Not too far from his house, there are white neighbourhood.

Inside the house, we can see the structure of the family, where there were his brother, sister, mother, father and grandmother. From the structure of the house, is evident that King comes from middle class family. However, the experience that his father had, and his childhood experiences have a lot of influences to him. We are told that when they were eating, his father would tell them his experience of going to ballot, and struggle that he had in order to cast his vote. King’s childhood experiences also had influences on him, in a way that he used to play with white children. This experience brought him to believe that white and black can live together.

From these places, there are some lessons that I can draw from that. The first lesson is that family and people around us have a lot of influences on how we perceive and view the world. Second lesson is that King is also a person like other ordinary people. However he has determination to change the society and the course of humanity, and this determination is also influenced by family, neighbourhood, and others individuals that we are socializing with. Third lesson is that in order to become agent of change, we have to give up some of our privilege. This point brings us back to our discussion in the class about privilege. Martin Luther King Jr. comes from middle class African American, who also had better lives than others. However he decided to render his privilege for the sake of humanity, and his legacies are still felt today.

After Atlanta, we headed to Birmingham Alabama. Alabama was a place where the major segregation took place, and major civil rights movement began. I spent more than one hour inside the national institute of civil rights movements. By visiting this place, to me, it brings the whole movement into a live. All of the artefacts inside the building are designed to bring back the history to alive. By listening to the speech, media coverage, pictures, and other artefacts, I feel like the whole story just happened few weeks ago.

However, the most striking thing to me is that the recognition of institutions at that time to admit that they did it. This is a very interesting one to me. It brings me to the whole concept of the reconciliation, peace, justice, etc. The reason why I am touched by this is because we are struggling for that with Indonesian military institutions. It is worldly known that Indonesia invaded our country and occupied it for 24 years. During that time, 25% of Timorese were killed. And until now, our leaders are forcing reconciliation with Indonesia. But until now, Indonesian government does not recognize that they did such things. In contrast to what I learned from visit to national institute of civil rights, from those artefacts, they do recognize. And in order to recognize, it requires courageous, and honesty to say that we did it, and we apologize for that.

We finished our second day activities with lecture from Dr. Pamela King at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. King tries to give us an untold history; the history that is not presented by the mainstream one. The history that most of the time is ignored, but they have their own contributions to the movement.

The question that she asked was why did Alabama become the hotspot of the movement? Were there any specific circumstance and condition that enabled this? In order to understand this, Dr. King went back to the period where there were organized labor unions in the Southern, and the roles played by communist party in the early movements, as well as the Baptist Church. One important point that I would like to take from Dr. King’s lecture is that civil rights movement is a middle class movement that wants to reform the structure of the race within existing political system.

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