In August of 2016, my wife and I took a trip down to the beautiful city of Atlanta, Georgia. This was our first time visiting Atlanta, and the furthest south I had ever traveled. The drive from Cincinnati to Atlanta led us through the entire states of Kentucky and Tennessee, and took us about eight hours to reach our final destination. For a moment during the ride, I thought about how my paternal great grandmother, whom I had learned about through my grandfather, had likely traveled this same exact route many years ago as she fled the Jim Crow south in search of better opportunities for African Americans in the north. It was a chilling thought, but I was comforted knowing that the south my great grandmother had escaped all those years ago was long gone due, in large part, to the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., and many others.
Though a bit exhausted, we were so excited to finally reach our hotel room in downtown Atlanta, on the campus of Georgia State University. There were so many things we wanted to do and so many places we wanted to visit. While there, we had the pleasure of touring the world of Coca-Cola museum, which featured an all-you-can drink beverage exhibit, with various Coca-Cola brand selections from all around the world. My favorite drink was the kiwi apple flavored Fanta, which is only sold in Thailand- it was really good! Then, we took a ride on the famous Atlanta Skyview Ferris Wheel, which towers some 200 ft. above Centennial Olympic park in downtown Atlanta. Swinging back and forth in a small air-born gondola is a bit nerve-wrecking at first, but the view from the top of the Ferris Wheel is absolutely amazing.
We also had the great pleasure of visiting the site of the 1996 Olympic Games. That year, Atlanta became only the 5th US city to host the worldwide Olympic Games. Salt Lake City would become the 6th when it hosted the Olympic Games in 2002. We visited the Cable News Network (CNN) headquarters, which before visiting, I had not known was in Atlanta. We drove past the Georgia Dome, and made a brief stop inside of the centuries old Oakland cemetery, which houses a section known as the “Slave Quarters”, the final resting place for more than 12,000 slaves. Even in death, blacks and whites were not permitted to dwell side-by- side, in what is now the former confederate states of America. I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. It was quite an experience!
But, perhaps, the most intriguing stop of them all was when we visited the former neighborhood and birthplace of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King’s childhood home is located at 501 Auburn Avenue, just two blocks up from the Ebenezer Baptist Church. The feeling of standing in front of Dr. King’s childhood home was surreal. In my view, Atlanta is synonymous with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, I first heard about the city when reading a children’s book about him in grade school, so you can imagine how significant this experience was for me. Unfortunately, however, on the day we visited, the home was under construction and no one was allowed to go inside. This being the case, we would have to be satisfied with taking a picture in front of the beautiful yellow and brown Victorian style home. There were people from all over the world waiting for a chance to take a selfie or group photo in front of the house.
Directly across the street from Dr. King’s childhood home stood an entire unit of homes called “shotgun” houses. Shotgun houses were one of the most popular styles of homes in the early 1900’s, particularly in urban areas. as they were small and relatively inexpensive to build. We, then, made the two blocks walk over to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both Dr. King and his father, Martin Luther King Sr., were pastors. As I sat on one of the original pews inside of the sanctuary, I was overcome by an immense feeling of gratitude for all that Dr. King had contributed to this nation and to the world at large.
Contributions that consisted of things such as the signing of the 1964 civil rights act by then president Lyndon B. Johnson which, among other things, euthanized the legitimacy of Jim Crow laws. There are so many reasons why we can all be grateful for the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The fact that he is the only non president with a holiday in honor of his name is a testament to the indelible foot print he left on this nation. As I close this reflection, I would like to encourage everyone that reads this post to honor the spirit of Dr. King by choosing love over hate. For as Dr. King himself once said, “I have decided to stick to love because hate is too great a burden to bear.”
-Sokoni Hughes, Admissions Counselor
More pictures from Sokoni’s trip: