Remembering a King

Guest Post
Jennifer Smeltser

I almost grew up in Atlanta, but I am glad I did not because I have such fond memories of my childhood. I occasionally wonder what it would have been like for me growing up as a young black girl in a city rich with Black history. When I think Atlanta, it translates to everything Black history to me. Whenever I perused through JET or Ebony magazines, it appeared every page contained just one more exciting event happening in Atlanta.

Five historically Black colleges which include Clark Atlanta University (formerly Clark College and Atlanta University), Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Morehouse College, Morris Brown College and Spelman College take residency in Atlanta. I have relatives who attended and graduated from almost every one of those schools. Yes, even I owe some of my intellect to the AU Center. I am sure you know which school Martin Luther King, Jr. attended.

Whether one was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King and his father served as co-pastors or strolled down Auburn Avenue where many prominent black-owned businesses got their starts and prospered, history was being made.

People, ordinary people like you and me, were a part of it all and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy was in its infancy.

Last summer, the children and I took a road trip, and somewhere along the way we had the opportunity to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.

Surprisingly, I had never visited the King Center, so we were able to take in the experience together for the first time.

It’s funny how we take so many things for granted when we live in and around them.

When I lived in Atlanta, I saw sights of the center on television. On many occasions. I had even driven by King’s birth home on Auburn Avenue, but never took the time to stop by and take a look around.

My children and I have talked a bit about race relations.

They have an understanding about slavery and racism, but don’t understand the justification behind either one.

We have also had conversations about the mistreatment black people experienced in the past and how Martin Luther King, Jr. diligently worked to end segregation and to earn equal civil rights for all people.

They also learned how King promoted the spirit of God through his encouragement of non-violence and peace in his efforts for equality.

I am hoping they will incorporate the same behavior into their daily interaction with each other. I too can dream.

Despite their understanding, there is still much curiosity and many questions now and I am sure questions to follow.

How does one explain the true essence of a man who self-sacrificed, listened to and followed the word of God despite the true nature of his opponents who called King their enemy? He was a man and a servant who endured injustices derived from hate, jealousy and bigotry, just to name a few.

He had hope and a dream for those people who walked alongside him.

Although he would never know them, he also thought about those who would later follow in his footsteps.

He hoped they too would dream just as big if not bigger than he had and rightly have a belief their dreams could also come true.

He believed this so strongly that even the constant threats of death didn’t deter him.

Unfortunately, it was pure hate, and not the love he preached that eventually took him from us.

To this day, the painful reminder of his death is still so strong for many and a new lesson for others as we continue to share his life and his impact on history with our children.

Despite the loss, we should continue to be inspired by his dream – inspired enough to make our own, humbled by his servitude – humbled enough to take our eyes off of ourselves for a moment and help another, and impassioned to continue his efforts of breaking the chains of hatred and embracing each other in arms of love.

We wish you a Happy Birthday Dr. King and we thank you. I remember you as well as my children and we will never forget you even though we never got to meet you.

How has the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. affected you? How do you share his story with your children?

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