Viewpoints

Progress: a parasoled stroll down Auburn Avenue

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Ladies and gentlemen, I am a Southern Belle.

In a transplant city where spotting a native has become a scavenger hunt, I’m a slow talkin’, Margaret Mitchell lovin’, biscuit eatin’, ain’t she a darlin’, a-Coke-is-a-Coke-and-a-Pepsi-will-never-do Georgia Peach.

And I love it.

I love watching the dogwoods bloom come spring. I walk to Piedmont Park at least once a week. If I had my way about it, The Fox Theatre would allow me to set up a cot in the back, as it is already my second home.

But, friends, today I have a confession of what, I am ashamed to say, is a true civic failing on behalf of this proud southerner.

I live within walking distance of the King Memorial.

And I’ve never been…

You see, growing up in the south, Martin Luther King Jr. Day meant little more to me than time off from school where I could sleep late and then go play at my friend Kelli’s house. Sure, I knew who Dr. King was. That he was a great man fighting for a great cause. I even did my middle school social studies project on his achievements…

But those achievements never really hit home for me, largely because I, a Peach of the Millenial variety, simply could not fathom a south wherein there wasn’t at least one black student in my class. An Atlanta littered with “whites only” signs? May as well transport me to Mars!

That anyone would ever have to fight for these things was a truth I knew but could not honestly fathom. But today, for the first time – ashamedly – it struck me. Not in the brain, because I always knew my beloved city had shameful chapters in its history…but in the heart.

I – a white southern belle from the ‘burbs – am who I am today, at least in part, because of The Civil Rights Movement.

I love my city. But I love it in large part because it isn’t the city Dr. King knew in the decades before my birth. I love it because of what Dr. King, and my congressman John Lewis, and so many others sacrificed to make it this way.

Friends, I love my life here because of battles fought, yes, on this soil, but not in my Georgia. My Georgia exists because the Dr. Kings of the past fought to create it. And I am the beneficiary of their sacrifice.

Atlanta is a vibrant city, and Georgia a charming state. Do we still have a long way to go? Yes. We certainly do. And I am grateful we still have leaders like Lewis to fight the good fight. It gives me hope. Hope for Georgia, for the Deep South, and for the future of this nation.

I have never been to the King Memorial. But this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 50 years after the passage of The Civil Rights Act, I will be there. To give thanks. To acknowledge. And to pray. For me. For you. For us, as we continue that good fight to ensure the continued progress of the south I love, and the nation that fought to keep it.

For more images of Erin’s trip to the memorial, click here.

 

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It features the Editor's Viewpoints and contributed commentaries.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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