Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia [Photo by Cathie Bird]
I went to a workshop in Atlanta several years ago and went down early just to see some sights. I had planned to go to the Carter Center for sure. When I got to the hotel, I looked through some of those what-to-do-while-you-are-in-town things they always have in the room. I was especially interested in sites close to the hotel so I could squeeze in as much as possible. Honestly, it had never occurred to me that the Martin Luther King Center was also in Atlanta, nor had MLK popped into my mind when I thought about my trip. When I saw the information, I felt very strongly that I had to go there.
I got majorly turned around and confused by the Atlanta street system, so lost a few minutes there, but finally found the parking area for the Center. On the way to the building I passed by the statue of Ghandi on the grounds. The path to it was all pavement and concrete and, unlike my visit to the Carter Center, there was no question that I was in the heart of a city.
Once I scoped out the grounds and all the things to do there it was clear that I did not have time to do everything, so I just tuned into my heart to see where it would go. I settled on a walk up the street to the King family home, then down to Ebenezer Baptist Church and finally back to the main visitor’s center to check out exhibits there.
Of all the things I experienced within these few blocks of Atlanta, two things are very present in mind, body and soul even today, seven years later. The first was my visit to Ebenezer Baptist. Inside you can sit in the pews and listen to a continuous audio presentation of various speeches by Dr. King. Just hearing his words in his own voice was awesome, but the other thing that impressed me so deeply was what I would call the spirit of the people who’d sat there before me. I think something leaked into my soul and out into my heart from that place that day: a desire to be truly free of the mental and emotional chains that I know I will feel as long as any other person on this planet is oppressed by another.
The second extraordinary experience of that day happened across the street at the MLK visitor center. I’ll save it for a later post. Quite frankly, I’m not sure yet what to say about it.