Lauren Hall | High School Administrator
Day two began on Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard, the birthplace of the 1960-1965 Atlanta Student Movement and central location to 6 Historically Black Universities: Atlanta University, Clarke College, Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College. The announcement that we were unable to visit the planned sites on campus due to death threats was a stark reminder that the hate, violence, and injustice that we are here to study is not behind us. We are not here solely to honor the accomplishments of courageous people, but to learn in ways that will make us more effective and educated with our own courage.
This location rooted the genesis of our trip in the power of young people. Roslyn Pope penned the collective Appeal for Human Rights on behalf of the student government leaders of all six schools laying out not only the specific events that required and inspired this movement and manifesto, but the expectations regarding education, jobs, housing, voting, hospitals, leisure activities, and law enforcement. Standing at the former site of the Yates and Milton Drug Store, a gathering place for these student leaders, and discussing the document I could not help but feel the same vibration at my core that called me into the field of education. What a gift it is to live in service to the power of young people, be trusted to transfer the honest and often hard truths of history, and provide spaces to foster the values held by our future.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change introduced the idea of the Beloved Community that we were quickly becoming ourselves.
“The Beloved Community is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflict exist, but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness. In the Beloved Community, caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. The Beloved Community is a state of heart and mind, a spirit of hope and goodwill that transcends all boundaries and barriers and embraces all creation. It seems a long way from the kind of world we have now but I do believe it is a goal that can be accomplished through courage and determination, and through education and training if enough people are willing to make the necessary commitment.”
Our country has recently found itself again at a crossroads and one that makes this description of the Beloved Community feel as though it could have been written today. It is a reminder that community includes problems and conflict, it is how we reconcile them that defines the community we create. I feel honored to be in the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King (an activist and advocate of her own right) surrounded by people committed to these principles in heart, thought, action, and education.
Our next stop brought us to The Temple, the oldest congregation in Atlanta (1867) once led by Rabbi Rothschild, an ally and fellow activist who reached out to join forces with MLK in the Civil Rights Movement. Due to this relationship between the Jewish and Black communities, The Temple was bombed. Eventually, Rabbi Rothchild would present Dr. King with the Nobel Peace Prize. Hate, discrimination, and injustice for any group cannot truly be defeated until it is defeated for all groups – we are always stronger together.
We concluded our day at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. This center does an incredible job of placing you at the center of the very best and worst of what it means to be human. We are capable of the most horrific and heroic things. We have every capability to create a beloved national and global community rooted in love, inclusivity, goodwill, abundance, and peaceful reconciliation. The reality is that we do not live in that world today because collectively we have chosen not to. Surrounded by all the faces, voices, and stories of those who committed their lives to fight for the very best version of humanity despite such vial circumstances moved me to a meaningful feeling of overwhelm. This came to a head listening to King give what can only be described as his own eulogy. In it, he tells us,
“Every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think about it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself what it that I would want said? And I leave the word to you this morning.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy tell him not to talk too long.
Every now and then I wonder what I want him to say.
Tell him not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize–that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have 300 or 400 other awards–that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right and to walk with them. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe the naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to, say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.
And all of the other shallow things will not matter.
I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that is all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a well song, if I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”
This movement is made up mostly of people whose names we may never know who too lived committed lives to love, justice, and service to humanity – not in vain. Now it is our turn.
We are educators; we are philanthropists; we are doctors; we are leaders; we are Jewish, Catholic, and Christian; we are black and we are white; we are mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons; and we are committed change makers. Our roles are all different, but our purpose is the same. We are a Beloved Community.