Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

I have a dream

As fate would have it, we are in Memphis on Martin Luther King Day, and we just had to take a trip to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which has been built upon the site of the Lorraine Motel, scene of Dr.King’s assasination in 1968. The motel has been preserved, and the museum built around it. On MLK day, there is a special $2 admission fee.

After a fortuitous wrong turn off Highway 55, we ended up in Tom Lee park, a lovely expanse of grass and pathways on the banks of the Mississippi, and we got our first glimpse of this mighty river.  The park is named after ” a very worthy Negro” -according to the quaintly-worded monument, who saved many lives in a steamer disaster in 1954. The parking there was free, so we decided to walk up to the civil rights museum from there.

Appointment with History

As we crested the rise and made our way towards it, the Lorraine motel, and that balcony and the fateful room came into view. Mahalia Jackson’s voice soared on the morning breeze and I was stopped dead in my tracks. I wasn’t prepared for it to look exactly as it did on that day in 1968. It was like being thrown back in time with the force of a hammer. I remembered this event as a 10 year old boy, and it’s repetition through the media as I was growing up. One bullet that altered the course of history. Such emotion welled up within me as I witnessed this scene, I almost broke down. A queue stretched into the distance along the sidewalk, a great ebony snake, for there were few white people here on this day, maybe half a dozen in addition to Miki and myself.  We joined the throng and waited our turn, paying our dollars to be confronted with the hard facts of oppression, bigotry, violence, ignorance, and plain stupidity. With mothers showing their children their history ahead and behind us, I got a feeling how Germans must feel who pluck up the courage to visit the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where I have been.   What did surprise me was how recent segregation prevailed in American history, and I feel that Britain for all its faults , was enlightened a lot sooner than the U.S.

 

I learned about folk heroes such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, brave women who made their name as guardian of the Underground railroad and abolishionist respectively.

When we reached the glass case that displayed the ridiculous costume of a Ku Klux Klansman, I felt a wave of shame for the colour of my skin, and wondered “my god, what must they really think of us?”   I hope the vermin that started that despicable organisation and anyone who subsribed, or indeed still subscribes, to its beliefs – rot in hell.

We boarded a bus which told the story of the legendary Rosa Parks, who rightfully received an award for her actions as late as 1991.  When we finally reached that balcony, and looked out at the window across the street from where the shot is adjudged to have rang out, I felt a shudder of realization at just how easy it is to take out a figurehead. But, as history has proved, however many bullets you have, you will never shoot down a dream.

We crossed the road to explore the section that covered the life of the gunman James Earl Ray, and as I was reading a little about his life, Miki said “you know what? why are we spending our time on this guy? He is nothing, just a common criminal.” I pondered her words for a moment, and realized his ‘fame’ was indeed an illusion, a perverted, inverted version- courtesy of the greatness and the vision of his victim. James Earl Ray deserved not a minute more of our time, and we turned our backs on the detritus of his sorry little life.

As we left the Civil Rights museum to enjoy the rest of our day, I felt privileged to have had the chance to visit this place on this particular day. Happy Birthday MLK, I salute you.

"Take me to the River....."

Kev Moore

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January 19, 2010 - Posted by | culture, death, events, Festivals of the World, life, men, photography, writing | , , , , ,

7 Comments »

  1. I’m surprised there weren’t more white people there. O.o

    Comment by Uninvoked | January 19, 2010

  2. Me too, and I’d like to know how Americans view this day. Do white people consider it a day for black people exclusively? I feel if this is the case, they may have missed King’s point.

    Comment by kevmoore | January 19, 2010

  3. Wow Kevin, you really moved me with this one. I was right there with you and thank you for being such a great expressive writer. At the point where you said,”Such emotion welled up within me as I witnessed this scene, I almost broke down,” I looked at your picture and could see that. Powerful man. What irony that you should be “right there” at “right time” to witness something and capture it so eloquently. You did right by yourself, right by us, and right by all who will be touched by this story.

    You know now I know why there are people with voices like angels; people that are movie stars with compelling acting; musicians that are timeless ( I remember reading you had with your mates a no.1 hit ): because they have been blessed with a gift and purpose and passion help bring these gifts to the world. You my friend have a gift and only you know what it is, but through your music, voice, written word, and all you creative expression, you give birth to the gift into the world so others may experience it.

    Thanks bro,
    michael

    Comment by Michael Pokocky | January 19, 2010

  4. Humbling comments, Michael, thank you.

    Comment by kevmoore | January 19, 2010

  5. This is very moving, Kev. Thank you for sharing so eloquently.

    Comment by shelleymhouse | January 20, 2010

  6. My pleasure Shelley! Feel a lot closer to all you guys at the moment, being on the same continent and all! 🙂

    Comment by kevmoore | January 20, 2010

  7. So close, and yet so far!

    Comment by shelleymhouse | January 20, 2010


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