Archives For black lives matter

auburn street

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Day 15 was our last day in Atlanta. After picking up Mtuseni from church, we headed to the birthplace and resting place of Martin Luther King, Jr. — the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.

Not far from the shiny towers of downtown, the tree-lined street has humble, well-kept wood frame houses with porches and picket fences. It seemed a little crazy to just park on the street like we were going to pop in to someone’s house for coffee and cobbler — when we were visiting the home of a renowned leader. But it’s the same at JFK’s birthplace in Brookline. Actually, the street reminds me of Brookline a little.  

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king plaque

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Martin Luther King Juniors birthplace house in Atlanta

MLK’s birthplace. Who could have imagined the life this sweet little house would produce.

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The house offered timed tours but neither of us was that interested; it’s basically an old house. But we did browse the gift shop on the first floor and picked up some souvenirs on the way back. 

Just about a block down the street is the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Sr. and his son had preached. I could imagine the family just walking from home to the church, waving and chatting with people sitting on their porches along the way. 

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Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia

Ebenezer Baptist, the original church where MLK — and his father before him — preached.

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Ebenezer Baptist Church neon sign in Atlanta Georgia

I love old neon signs. This one is pure and simple — don’t need more for a church!

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A block down from the church is the museum and the newer Ebenezer Baptist. The museum is well done with artifacts and timelines. It’s amazing how much impact MLK had at such a young age.

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Martin Luther King Junior National Historical Park sign

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Mtuseni was engrossed in the civil rights history exhibits. He has a unique perspective with South Africa’s experience of apartheid — there are similarities and differences in both situations. Yet there’s still so much work to be done in South Africa. I’ve come to realize through my years with Mtuseni how deep the scars of apartheid run. 

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timeline

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Wagon that carried Martin Luther King Junior's coffin.

The wagon that carried MLK’s coffin during services.

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Tomb of Martin Luther King Junior and Coretta Scott King in Atlanta, Georgia

The tomb of Martin and Coretta is in a long reflecting pool painted bright blue. It’s garish and distracting; a quieter, neutral color would be more fitting and respectful.

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The contemporary Ebenezer Church was closed for services. Looking through the photos of this day recently, I saw that Mtuseni had taken photos inside the church. I asked how he was able to do that — and when. He said that he went inside after the service ended, and I was probably looking for a bathroom. Haha… that sounds about right!

After the museum we headed back to my friend’s house to just hang and eat takeout. It was nice to relax and avoid hotels (and those damn waffle machines!) We were recharged and ready for the next stage of our swing through the South…. music and history!

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Day 4 was a travel day: Cherry Hill, New Jersey to Arlington, Virginia. The GPS unexpectedly took us away from Rte 95 — and we discovered gorgeous farmland in Delaware and Maryland. (Who knew?) And some cool bridges across the Chesapeake.

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Day 5 was all about the African American Museum in DC. The museum is spectacular. We got there before it opened and stayed until it closed at 5:00; the guard was literally shooing us out. We spent so much time in the detailed history floors (and the soul food cafe for lunch) that we had to speed up a bit for the Black culture floors. We could have used a couple more hours. Plan accordingly if you go.

Powerful quotes are on the walls in large type throughout the museum.

As part of our trip, I hoped that Mtuseni would better understand America’s racial history. Over the years, we’d talked about the impacts of apartheid in South Africa — which he still suffers — and which I always express shock and disgust over. While he wasn’t completely unaware of issues here, I wanted Mtuseni to know the full story of our own mistakes.

This slave house is larger than Mtuseni’s shack in South Africa.

Though Mtuseni was born at the end of apartheid, his parents grew up in that segregation. He was surprised to see it so blatant in America.

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An old railway car with the separate facilities for Blacks and Whites.

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Emmett Till’s story always shocks and saddens me. The more things change…

Mtuseni was pretty much in his own world that day, soaking in everything, taking hundreds of photos, trying to grasp and reconcile the experiences and perspectives of Black South Africans and Black Americans. They are different in many ways.

The history section begins with the slave trade and goes up to Obama. You can’t come away unaffected.

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The culture floors are very cool, and a good break from the heavy history section. We saw much of it, but I would have liked more time to read every sign and look at every item.

I saw James Brown at a packed, dive club in Boston in 1988. Blew the roof off! Unforgettable. This is one of his fringe vests.

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Louis Armstrong's trumpet
Satchmo’s horn. Glad I’m old enough to remember hearing him on the radio and on TV.

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Ella Fitzgerald's dress
Ella Fitzgerald’s dress. My father loved Ella.

After the main history section is a reflection space with a rain column and quotes. The entire museum is all very well done.

Mtuseni has an interesting perspective on Mandela. He says while others were out on the streets fighting and dying for the cause, Mandela had it easy in jail. He doesn’t lionize him like Americans do — another example of the difference living in South Africa versus being on the outside.

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God, Let’s hope so.