Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr, 1929-1968

On Sunday I went to visit the neighbourhood where Martin Luther King Jr (MLK Jr) grew up. The son of a Baptist preacher, ML, as he was fondly called, earned his PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston University in 1955, but even before that, he already began serving as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1953 at the age of 24.

MLK Jr was the leader of the civil rights movement fighting for equality of all races, the right to vote and work, and abolition of racial discrimination. MLK Jr organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1964 he became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his leading of the non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States. He also opposed the Vietnam War. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK Jr's father was pastor. MLK Jr later returned in 1960 to co-pastor this church with father.

I heard part of a sermon by MLK Jr last Sunday. The building is now a National Historical Site managed by the National Parks Service. They play recorded sermons of MLK Jr throughout the day. He was a fiery preacher.

Names of church members who donated money to build the church in 1922, before MLK Jr was born.

The tomb of Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968) and his wife Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

A display of MLK Jr's personal belongings.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr was influenced by Gandhi's principle of non-violent persuasion and civil disobedience, and by Henry Thoreau's essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character

MLK Jr's delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to more than 200,000 civil rights supporters on August 28, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The speech ranks as the greatest American speech of the 20th century.

MLK Jr's birth place, January 15, 1929

Paying tribute

Auburn Avenue, where MLK Jr grew up

This road is named in honour of MLK Jr. The USA has very few public holidays, yet one of the national holidays is Martin Luther King Jr Day celebrated on the third Monday of January. A fitting tribute to a man who shaped modern American history.

This is Auburn Avenue further down from from MLK Jr's neighbourhood. Auburn Avenue passes through a semi-ghetto between downtown and the MLK Jr historical site. There were gangsta-looking youths loitering around... for a while I thought I was in the wrong place, coz the tourist guide told me to walk straight down Auburn Ave... I mean, that's like DBKL telling foreign tourists to walk down Chow Kit in order to get to PWTC. If I had known earlier I just might have tried taking an alternative parallel route. Anyway, nothing happened to me except that on the way to the MLK Jr historical site I had to pay off another homeless man by the name of Michael who self-appointed himself as my "tour guide". Now I'm more aware of their tactics. At first I thought they were just being helpful, but how naive of me to assume that that was all they wanted to do. Wikipedia has a summary of this practice called panhandling, which is American-speak for begging. I should have read this earlier. But then, I would rather err on the side of charity than on the side of doubt. It's better to have a false positive result than a false negative...?

And this is Joe. He's 60 (so he says), and his wife is 59 (so he says), and they live under this Interstate 75 overpass (which means flyover in English-speak). He "bumped" into me as I was walking back from the MLK historical site. As you can see, I was in no danger. But I was beginning to get a bit tired of being Jabatan Kebajikan Negeri Georgia (Is there a neon sign over my head?!). I have a compassionate *ahem* heart but I was starting to think whether I should strategically avoid such street people. It's hard to say no to them once they've started talking. And they have various strategies to hook you, e.g. asking if you need help and offering before you even get to say anything (see the Wikipedia link). And I can't afford to keep donating Malaysian Ringgit-converted US dollars, even if it's just a little here and there. Well, so I made Joe work a bit for his dinner (how cruel of me). I asked him to "escort" me a few more blocks down the street, past the semi-ghetto area where some young gangstas were hanging out. He said he is a Christian, and that my reward is in heaven. Amen. And he don't got no job coz he old, and he don't got no education, and ain't nobody gonna hire him, yo. So how could I say no to him? I just hope he bought dinner for his wife and himself, and did not spend the few dollars on drugs or booze. He looked pretty bona fide to me. But it was sad to see that part of this area so near downtown was still so economically and socially depressed. A bit like Chow Kit in KL, but not that bad, I think. Every city has its dark side, even a former Olympic host like Atlanta. From my hotel window I can see some homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk across the road. And so the struggle for socio-economic justice continues... in the land of the free.


lina said...

wowzers... you are working your new cam to the max, eh?

Are they still holding any church service in Ebenezer Baptist Church?
Just wondering how the service will be like... hmmm...

Oh yeah... you want to compassionate... can... but please do not dig into the bag meant for our gifts, yar? Hehe... ;-)

As for what you are in the eyes of the homeless there.... I think "water fish" should be a better tag. Haha.... just joking... it's good to be charitable but is advisable to do it with a little caution.

nicole said...

the neon sign says "nice guy=easy money"

CHARIS said...

Its all in your face, darlinghh! That's why they keep comin' to you:) I was approached by some women at a counter in DFW airport asking me for a donation to support the 3rd world countries. They were genuine, but I said, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money...I'm from a third world country myself!"

What are you doing, anyway? Wasting your boss's precious money blogging, huh? You should be out on the streets painting the town red!

HL said...

The congregation grew too big for the church building so they moved to a new sanctuary across the road. The original building is now a historic site.

I have been out on the streets after hours. I think I look too much like an out-of-town tourist. And I don't cut them off right at the start. Sigh. What to do?

But at least I get to talk to them and hear another side of the story. They're friendly and quite harmless and actually quite polite. Yesterday I turned one guy down, and he said "thank you" before walking off. I felt bad, so when the next guy approached me further down the road, I entertained him a bit more. He's Darnel, 33, homeless since being evacuated from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina 2 years ago (but he was homeless in Louisiana too). After escorting me 4 blocks, he told me he needed 8 bucks to pay for one night at the Salvation Army shelter. I gave him 3 bucks. He suggested that I give him a 5 dollar note, so that he has to get only 3 bucks from someone else. I told him I'll give him 3 bucks and he can get 5 bucks from someone else. I also told him to get a job, and try harder to hold whatever job he gets. And I told him, no drugs.