Monday, March 28, 2011

For my Facebook friends, I posted my thoughts and experiences throughout the week. I will post them here as well. I apologize to the reader(s) for the length as it is all of the days together in one posting.

Having a good day in Atlanta. Toured the CNN center which was not really that remarkable, just a lot of advertising about how great the company is. A nap at Olympic Park was wonderful and getting to know everyone is really nice. Tomorrow, church service and museums.

Went to Ebeneezer Baptist 125 Anniversary service in Atlanta. Met John Lewis! (A Civil Rights activist.) Went to museums in Atlanta, and in Birmingham, Alabama. Very moving experiences, all. Tasty southern food to cap off the day. It's different here in the sense that you can still sense the segregation-not obvious but you can feel it. Still cannot believe I got to meet John Lewis. We did not know that he was going to be at the service, and so later, despite the fact that everyone was supposed to be on the bus, I sneaked up to John, and we spoke for a couple minutes. At some point, a new friend will let me have the photos from her camera and I'll put them up here. Woohoo! I wish we could have stayed longer to meet some of Dr. King's family-I believe his sister was there. :( We went to the eternal flame and Dr. and Mrs. King's tomb.

It was a long but great day yesterday. We were in Montgomery. A very complicated city to say the least. As for the Capitol building tour, we did not have the older ladies as expected, who would tell us that slavery only existed for 11 years--they sent as a tour guide of the capitol an African American woman who unfortunately either did not know too much, or, was not allowed to say much since there were plenty of people around listening. The murals and statutes confirm their wonderful and bountiful history and nothing negative :). The confederate flag is up in the old Senate chamber (to preserve the historical aspects of the room). It was beautiful. However, there are points of interest where great white men like Jefferson Davis and George Wallace stood to give speeches. There is not one reference to the Union (purposely omitted)--it's all about the Confederacy.

On Feb 19th, they had the 150 year Confederate Heritage Rally on the steps of the capitol recently, which included KKK marching everywhere. This is even more striking as the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church where MLK was a preacher for about 6 years, is 1/2 block from the capitol. I did not know it was that close. I'm glad we were not here for that.

The scrolling wall of names was interesting. At the Civil Rights Memorial, in a darkened room, you insert your name into a computer promising to practice tolerance and to do what you can to improve the world. As soon as you hit the enter-key, your name pops up on the projection screen in blue or green for the world to see. It may or may not be there by the end of the day depending on visitors but it's nice to see.

Went to several other places including the Confederate White House--the Davis family adopted a little black boy and "de-colored" him so that he could be considered a family member. On the plus side, they adopted him to protect him from being abused by his previous caregiver. Rosa Parks and the Greyhound Freedom Ride Station were very remarkable places to learn more information and get a strong feeling of what it must have been like in the 50's and 60's for blacks. I walk around feeling like I want to ask every person over 40 what life was like then. There is more underlying racism here than I thought. You do not walk into certain neighborhoods depending on your skin color. You do not walk into certain neighborhoods if you stick out as a Jew, Northerner, or some other foreigner. We were patronized at various points. There is security at the Civil Rights Memorial because they were bombed in 1983 by the KKK.

Just a quick mention about the day we went to the Ebenezer Baptist Church service. Outside, there was a statue of Kunta Kinte holding Kizzy to the sky, just like in Roots. Later, in the service they welcomed a baby into the fold, and repeated the same action.

Montgomery also covered the Greyhound Bus station where the Freedom Riders were beaten. There are beginning to make the building into a museum and had some nice plaques depicting the general events and small biographies of the Riders. We also passed by the central fountain which was right down the street from the Capitol Dome. This used to be the Slave Auction Block, and they erected a fountain over it. During our visit, the water was pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Future advice: Don't tour on Mondays. Many churches and some museums are closed.

Birmingham: We visited the outside of the church where the four girls were killed in a bombing, Kelly Ingram Park across the street, and then a museum that was put together very well. It depicted a bit of the life during mandatory segregation, as well as some of the most painful aspects of the movement. By the end, I was bawling. The Park itself is a site where a lot of pain occurred to citizens, such as assaults from fire hoses and police dogs. Statutes have been erected for visual depictions. Later, we went to a wonderful lecture by I believe a U of A professor about the beginnings of Birmingham in general. It was formed in 1871 and was quite similar to the boom towns of the West. This makes it a bit more unique as immigrants built it along with ex-slaves. It also developed around capitalism from the start, which was rare for the South. There is a lot more info than I will include here, but I'll keep it short.

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