The long anticipated opening of the Center for Civil and Human Rights is scheduled to take place in less than two weeks. I can’t wait to experience it for myself. From its exterior, in its perfect setting downtown, it looks grand and inspiring in its architecture. I can’t wait to get inside.
I want to remember and give thanks for the courage and visions of the well-known heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement in America, most notably our own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I also want to give thanks to the mostly unsung heroes and heroines, those young men and women, who in the racially-divided, racially unjust South, transformed not only our region of the country, but the nation and the world.
They went to church and sang, “O, deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome some day” and sat down at segregated lunch counters. They had ketchup poured over their heads and epithets hurled at them all day long. They did what they did so the rights of some would be extended to all. They were brave. They had faith that people and societies could change for the better. They rode buses across the South, enduring terrible assault and indignity, to the end that freedom would become the right of the minority as well at the majority.
As a young white girl growing up in the Deep South, I remember the colored and white water fountains at the train station in our town. I remember how only the white fountain had cold water. I remember how my high school classmates went out to the state line when the freedom riders bus drove through, so they could hurl bricks, eggs, and yell taunts. I remember how no one who left school that day was counted absent. I remember when the Jewish synagogue in our town was vandalized. I remember how, in our church, not a word was ever said about racial injustice or anti-Semitism.
That is why I want to hear the stories of both the renowned and the unsung Americans of the 1950’s and 60’s who changed the nation and the world for the better. I want to know what motivated them to not accept the status quo. I want to drink from the fountain of faith that gave them inward assurance that resulted in such profound outward action. I want us never to forget them and what they did.
I believe with God’s help, you and I today can fix just about anything that is broken in this world, and there is a whole lot of brokenness in our day that needs to be fixed. The 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook 18 months ago comes to mind immediately. God forbid that we would settle to stand around and say, “Isn’t it terrible?”
Let’s get going. Let’s speak out. Let’s join hands. It all begins with us having faith that what ought not to be does not have to be.
I thank God that I live in the city that was the home of the civil rights movement and is poised to be the beacon for human rights for all the world. I hope and pray that Atlanta will be worthy of our legacy and up to the challenge of today.
– Joanna M. Adams