A week ago I finally had the chance to visit the new(ish) Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you may remember, when I first blogged about the fundraising efforts for the memorial 3 years ago! Whenever we had cause to be in DC, I would keep bringing up the fact that there was a brand new monument to visit and for one reason or another there was always something else to see.
Finally, driving back from a visit to Maryland, we made a special effort to see the MLK memorial. Our timing was perfect! It was a lazy Sunday morning and there was a light drizzle. All of DC was shrouded in fog and mist. It was an amazing time to visit monuments and gave an other-worldly feel to the experience. My husband and I both felt it was like the visions you see in movies of people walking into heaven.
We couldn’t find the memorial at first. It was tucked back unassumingly from the road — almost hidden in plain sight.
Although there was a lot of controversy when it was built about having too many monuments on the Mall, it fits in perfectly. It is scaled just right so that you feel the power of the space but at the same time you make the connection to other events in time and place.
It’s not a huge memorial (at least as DC memorials go) but a powerful one. The statue of MLK is, of course, the focal point (and the tourist photo opp) but once you take that in, your eyes shift to the stone wall behind where there are many of King’s famous quotations. He was such a master of language.
It was a very moving and meaningful experience for us and our children. If you are in DC, I highly recommend a visit.
As our thoughts turn to remembering our national history, it has been wonderful to see the increase in popular scholarship on African American history. We seem to be on a rising tide where people feel more and more comfortable speaking about the experiences of their families (or being more frank with historical facts) and more and more fascinating details are being brought to light about slavery and the African American experience. Some of the interesting recent examples include the following PBS documentaries:
- “Soul Food Junkies” – a look at African American history through food but also confronting issues that face us all such as changing our dietary traditions without changing our identity.
- “The Abolitionists” – an incredible documentary about the courageous leaders of the movement to end slavery in this country, including many names that I never knew before.
Living in a Southern state, I have come to learn that there is still much more to be said about our nation’s past and that our general understanding of issues of slavery and discrimination is simplistic at best. These were very complex relationships on so many levels, both at the individual and societal levels. While it may be hurtful or sad to hear some of these memories, I find there is a lot of inspiration to be found from the courage and heart of so many people of the past as well.