Wednesday, June 1, 2011
A Movement, Not a Job
Tonight we went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is housed in the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The entire exterior of the building has been kept in the state it would have appeared on that fateful evening, right down to the classic cars outside. Inside is a history of the movement in the 1950's and 1960's and culminates in a reproduction of the room where MLK spent his final hours and the view from the balcony where he was gunned down by an unknown shooter.
Ok time for some honesty. I never truly felt connected with the realities of the civil rights movement. I remember covering the struggle for African-American equality in U.S. History and reviewing for the Advanced Placement Exam. I certainly never thought of myself as an active part in this movement, that is easy to view simply as history. I grew up in a town that wasn't very diverse and ditto for the University I attended. This doesn't make them bad places, in fact I love North Attleboro and CUA dearly and would never apologize for them. But there is something about standing behind the site of MLK's death, literally in the path of the bullet that claimed his life reminded me that I have huge shoes to fill and that the fight to ensure people are judged "by the content of their character" rather than anything else is far from over. In a weird way Teach for America here is Memphis is my way of ensuring that the equality of opportunity the United States was founded upon is available for all children, regardless of the zip code into which they were born. This really goes beyond a black or white issue, its an American issue and ending educational inequity is one of the logical successors to the work begun by MLK.
Looking at the my forthcoming classroom experience not simply as a means to a paycheck of closing the achievement gap, but rather as a mission to continue the work of change agents both black and white is truly inspiring to me. I am unabashedly in love with the United States and one of the best jobs I have ever had was opening mail in the shadow of the Capitol Dome for Rep. Mary Fallin (unpaid). Tonight was a huge reminder that you don't have to be in Congress or the Armed Services to fight for your country. There is work to be done everywhere and my spot will be here in Memphis.