Reflection on the 90th birthday of MLK Jr

During my kids’ fall break in 2017, our family took a road trip to Memphis, Tennessee to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. Mark, my husband, planned this historic trip and even though I’m not a fan of museums, I was very grateful he pushed us to have this somber experience.

Experiencing the National Civil Rights Museum

The moment you approach the museum, you’re transported to April 4, 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed. Why? Because the National Civil Rights Museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, where it all happened. Before going inside the museum, our family just stood in front and looked up at the balcony. I know my kids couldn’t understand the gravity of what they were seeing, but to me, I just couldn’t understand how a life could have been violently taken. More specifically, I couldn’t understand how someone would be capable of taking another person’s life just because they disagreed with their views.

The museum is astounding, and every single American should devote a minimum of two hours there to absorb the civil rights movement in the U.S. There are three things from that trip that I remember vividly:

  1. The vulnerability and exposure of any guest staying at the Lorraine Motel
  2. The remains of a charred bus
  3. Images of children being arrested for protesting
An actual charred greyhound bus that was on exhibit at the Museum

Why Do These Atrocities Happen?

The burning question that I have is, “Why did these atrocities have to happen?” And you know what? Those atrocities didn’t have to happen. Individuals let fear, and specifically the fear of something that is different from the way they look and think, cause them to behave violently. Humankind should have learned how to appreciate and embrace the differences, because there are so many differences within our species. Different isn’t bad. Different isn’t scary. Different is just different.

Let’s Be Better

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., let’s embrace all the differences. Appreciate those who differ from you and learn how to appreciate all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, disability, education, or WHATEVER. Martin Luther King Jr. would have celebrated his 90th birthday this year; in his honor, let’s create a society that has changed for the better, where we are being inclusive, embracing diversity, and ensuring equity and access to ALL.

In the not-for-profit sector, I see the most giving and accepting individuals; collectively, we need to start a movement that makes this the norm. 2019 is the year to stomp out hate and fear and embrace the differences.

Happy Birthday, MLK, and thank you for being compassionate, loud, and fearless.

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