Closed Facilities and an Open Question

Our original plans called for us to spend the day today exploring the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta. I knew that the National Park Service is involved in this facility, so I assumed it would be closed due to the federal government shutdown. I thought today would end up being a day to relax and catch up with ourselves. Well, sister-in-law, A, called the facility, and we were surprised to learn that they were open. So, off to Atlanta we went. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out that only a small percentage of the place actually is open. There is one building, and some outdoor sites, that are operated by the King family. Those areas were accessible. The childhood home of MLK, the church that his father pastored, and the main interpretive center were all closed.

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Notice the reflected imagery from the very-impressive mural of the entire Civil Rights Movement across the courtyard from this locked-down entryway.

 

We were able to pay our respects at the burial crypt where MLK and Coretta Scott King are buried.

We were able to see, from the outside, the house where MLK was born and lived the first 12 years of his life. In the photo it is the tan house, third from the right, with orange pylons in front of it. The surprising thing to me was that it was such a grand, middle-class home. When you consider the fact that the family lived in this home during the Great Depression, you begin to realize that MLK lived a comfortable childhood. I had never realized this before.

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Childhood Home (third from the right)

 

One of the things that has been dawning on me slowly over the past few years, and especially during this trip, is that in many urban areas there used to be a vibrant, black, middle class neighborhood or neighborhoods. These were areas of town that, although brought about by segregation, were thriving places for the people who lived, worked, and played together in these neighborhoods. Blacks owned and operated businesses, people had their homes, and the nightlife was “lively.” The loss of these neighborhoods, due to various types of “urban renewal,” has resulted in a significant loss of community for African-Americans. I think this has been an unintended negative consequence of integration. I have asked some of the older African-Americans whom I have met about this, and they have tended to agree with me. This loss of community is a sad thing, and it is not restricted to the African-American community. I know that a similar story has happened to the Polish community, and I suspect it has happened to other ethnic groups as well.

I wonder how people of the 21st century can work intentionally to replace this lost sense of community. I would like to envision multi-ethnic, multi-racial, communities. How shall we go about forming them? Any ideas? (Add a comment to contribute ideas. Click on the speech-cloud icon at the top of the page to add a comment.)

 

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2 thoughts on “Closed Facilities and an Open Question

  1. So very sad! The type of community you envision is like the one I grew up in. We were all children of immigrants and though there were ethnic neighborhoods, we all got along. I grew up in a Lithuanian neighborhood but when I went to high school it was an integrated student body made up of all the smaller ethnic groups. Can you imagine entering a high school with 3,000 students after attending a tiny Catholic school with about 10 students in my eighth grade class? It was pretty overwhelming at first, but since we were all in the same boat we managed to make friends without bigotry or racism – at least I don’t remember it to be a problem. Sadly, I don’t think that would be possible today.

    • Originally, the public school system was designed to bring about the kind of blending and mixing that you are describing. Unfortunately, today’s schools tend not to accomplish that goal, because there is not much diversity in today’s schools. Most of the urban schools are nearly 100% African-American and Hispanic. Most of the suburban schools are predominantly white and Asian. Some of the “inner ring” suburbs have genuine diversity, but the design of suburbs works against the formation of real community. I have read about how some urban areas are becoming more diverse as people from all ethnicities are choosing urban living over suburbs for a number of very practical reasons. I think there is some reason to hope for this to continue.

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