Dream alive in our youth
Kerry Whipple Bean
The 7-year-old in our party said it best, as only children can. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Why wouldn’t they just let them sit at the counter?”
On the day before Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we were touring the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, my hometown, a city that lived in sadness for days, weeks, years after April 4, 1968.
The Lorraine Motel, where King was shot on the balcony, has been turned into a museum, a timeline of the civil rights movement and a monument to the place where King’s life was cut short.
At the museum, you can sit on a bus and hear the driver tell you that you must move to the back or risk arrest.
You can read newspaper stories and see photos of those amazing days — scenes those in Memphis and we in Alabama have known all too well, whether from history books or because they lived it.
You can see the type of lunch counter where sit-ins were necessary because African-American residents couldn’t be served.
By chance, while touring the museum, my mother and I ran into William Ross, a sanitation worker who was part of the strike that brought King to Memphis for that fateful trip. Ross proudly showed us a photo of the march that finally took place days after King’s death, his youthful face visible in the corner, near the front.
Ross remembers clear details from that April night, the night before he was supposed to march with King. “It was darker than I’ve ever seen in Memphis,” he said.
Though I wasn’t even born then, I’ve heard stories from longtime Memphis residents that that sense of darkness — and shame — seemed to permeate for months, even years.
But Memphis, and the rest of our country, have emerged from that shame, and continue on a journey toward the dream King envisioned.
My sweet 7-year-old friend is proof that the dream is closer than we’ve ever imagined, embodied in a new generation that will know both our history and a future, I hope, that is free from bigotry.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.