Crossing the Border into Alabama!

We started the day off well rested in Atlanta. As if we hadn’t had enough time in the van yesterday, we hit morning rush hour traffic into Atlanta at its peak this morning as well. Thankfully Jill was much more patient than I would have been and got is to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site calmly and in one piece!

While there we were able to see the home within which Martin Luther King Jr. was born. Unfortunately we weren’t able to tour the home, but we did get to go up to it and take a few group photos. From there we went to the King Center and toured Freedom Hall, which has various educational centers and artifacts from King’s life. It also had an exhibit on Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, and Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s message of non-violent activism was very influential for King, so it was really interesting to see elements of both of their lives juxtaposed against one another. Outside of Freedom Hall we all paused at Dr. and Mrs. King’s tomb. It sits elevated on top of a pool of water and faces the eternal flame. While looking directly at the tomb you can hear Dr. King’s voice delivering a speech. This particular setting was a very powerful moment for me because it was starting to drizzle, but the eternal flame was precisely what it should be: eternal and burning despite the rain. That seemed particularly symbolic to me.

We were also lucky enough to be able to go into the Ebenezer Baptist Church where King and his father preached and where the whole King family regularly attended church. Apparently Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris still attends the newly erected Ebenezer Baptist Church. The setup they have in the old church is quite an experience as well. They have a recording of Dr. King preaching playing as you sit in the pews of a church that looks very much unchanged from when King would have been there.

The entire King Center was a totally different museum experience from our experience yesterday. The area is all restored and seems almost encapsulated in a very specific point of time, and that point was during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. It really does feel like you’re walking through history.

We had to keep moving to make it to Birmingham late this afternoon, so we continued our journey and finally crossed the border into Alabama! We made it! The rest of the evening was fairly low-key. We met with our contact in Birmingham, Kelvin. He has tons of contacts and it looks like he’s going to keep us very busy over the next few days. Tonight he took us to a photo gallery opening where one photographer named Sonja Rieger was displaying photos she took at a Klan rally in Gardendale, AL in 1979, a town not far from us now. The photos were exceptionally powerful and included men in the full KKK garb as well as enormous cross burnings. She juxtaposed these photos with other photos she had taken of enormous clouds and sun, and altogether it made for a very moving image and start to our time in Birmingham. I overheard one woman speaking with Sonja who spoke about how shocked she was that the images were actually taking place while she was attending college in Birmingham. She said that she never would have imagined as a college student that a Klan meeting could be happening right down the road. Her comment was particularly hard-hitting for me as a current college student. What kinds of injustices are happening “right down the road” from me on a daily basis that I’m unaware of?

And because I like to end on a positive note, here is our food update… We learned today that Cam is part bloodhound. She can sniff out the best restaurant in town from seeing a sign off the highway. Yesterday it was Zaxby’s and today it was Folk’s where you can get “blue ribbon sweet tea” and the “best fried chicken in Atlanta!” I knew it was my kind of place when I saw the headline “Don’t forget your vegetables!” on the menu and found mac & cheese, sweet potato soufflé, and fried pickles listed as vegetables as well as various items “cooked with turkey.” So what do you do when you can’t find the vegetables? You order the fried pickles of course! The group is split 50/50 on whether we like the fried pickles or not. But I think we can all agree that they would be much improved with some Zax Sauce.

– Hannah



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