Growing up a Northerner, I heard horror stories about living in the South. In history classes, we heard about slavery, lynchings, segregation and Jim Crow laws; so upon moving to Atlanta, I had a very negative depiction of how I would positively raise my family in a city known for its discrimination. The desegregation of Atlanta happened in recent stages: buses and trolley cars in 1959, the first restaurant in 1961, theaters in 1962 and public schools not until 1961-1973 (I was born in 1972 and in New Jersey, we had been desegregated for ages). When I moved here, much to my surprise, I fell in love with the cities, eclectic people, Queen Anne architecture near Inman Park, the large buildings downtown and bustling nightlife. We quickly settled for the suburbs North of Atlanta.
Then something unexpected started happening. My children began to grow up, not experiencing racism like I read about or experienced. What Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about in his 17-minute I Have A Dream speech began to unfold in front of my eyes and in the lives of my children. They became part of a whole and I began to breathe a little easier in our Southern middle class suburb. Recently, we took a trip to Auburn Avenue and I watched as my children were awe-inspired by the sights of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the eternal flame, the final resting place of Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. and the like. My children smiled as they recalled that history once stood right where they were standing. There was a bustling existence that once took in the same sky only 50 years prior and they were proud. I am not sure what the future holds for them, but I can only hope that "…one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I watched the face of my youngest as she read what Dr. King said and she was impacted positively. We have a long way to go, but in some of our communities, we are making a difference. I know we are making a difference in mine.