In honour of Dr Martin Luther King Day this week, I’d like to share my recent experience at the Martin Luther King Historic Site and Centre for Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta.
As I was growing up, my parents, grandparents and great grandmother shared with me their experiences with civil rights issues and apartheid and how it impacted them. My father was the only African at his university in South Africa. He often faced the other student’s reluctance to work with him and suspicions about how he achieved the success he did, despite being highly gifted academically. When my mother was in college, for her to do her grocery shopping, she had to tell the shop assistant what she wanted to buy through a window because white people were the only ones allowed in the shops.
So I had some concept of the horrible issues people of colour faced in the past but it never really sunk in until I participated in the Martin Luther King Tour.
The tour is all about the Civil Rights Movement in the US and throughout the world, it is located at the Centre for Civil and Human Rights as well as in the neighbourhood Dr King grew up in. The creators of this exhibition put in a lot of creativity to give you an immersive experience into what it was like during this time in world history.
Part of the exhibition is a simulation of what would have been experienced by people of colour in the past. For example there is a section which is designed to look like a lunch counter which was reserved for white people at the time. Once you sit down, put on some headphones and close your eyes. It is like being right in the middle of a sit in. You feel the hatred and fear that many people felt, except they did not have the option to take off the headphones and walk away.
I found this really confronting but at the same time it gave me an experience I could not have had any other way. Coming away from the experience, I felt an immense sense of gratitude for the good fight these people before me fought to allow me to have the life I have today.
Even though there is definitely still racism, discrimination and limitations today, when I reflected back I realised that I had so much to be thankful for.
One of the biggest things for me was the relationships & friendships I have, back in 1960s I would not have been able to associate with about 80 – 90% of the people that I do now.
I can’t imagine not having these people in my life. I could see how different personal life as well as my business would be, and certainly not in a positive way.
As a community, it’s important we continue to look at what we can improve and make better every day however, I believe there is also a lot of value in looking back at our past and seeing how far we have come and the positive differences that have been made on our lives. Each and every one of us has the power to make a difference.
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. – Martin Luther King