On Sunday, March 21, 2014, our next destination was to travel to Atlanta, Georgia to visit and experience a church service at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Sitting on the right side of the bus, I noticed we were approaching the same Ebenezer Church that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. attended when he was still alive. The old blue Ebenezer Baptist Church sign with white lettering and a white cross-stood out to me and I was amazed how beautiful the building still was despite the last time Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has visited for a service before his assassination in 1963. Getting off the bus and being directed to cross the street so that we would not be late for service, I was fairly confused. I thought service still took place in the original Ebenezer Baptist Church building, but when I saw a newly, constructed Ebenezer Baptist Church across the street from the original church, I was pretty amazed.
Entering the doors of the new Ebenezer Baptist Church, my breath was taken away at how large the inside of the church was as it was not portrayed this way from the outside. There were at least four different sections of pews on the main floor and even a balcony filled with tons of people. I was happier to breathe the air and feed off the vibe I received from the members of this church community than to assess what we had just walked into. The choir left me speechless as they sounded amazing and this church seemed different than many mega churches in Illinois and back in my home community of Proviso Township, Illinois. Despite the large number of members that were present, I could tell that each one knew one another and had somewhat of a relationship with each other. Walking into the church when 9 members were being baptized, officially joining as a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church was also a defining moment of the service.
The line up of the service was somewhat different as many Baptist churches wait until the end of service to baptize members and there normally is not much singing and more of the church community receiving, analyzing, and attempting to apply the week’s sermon, or main message, to their lives. Also, with there being a short sermon I was a bit confused as to if that was the short version of the service and if this was what occurred every week as I felt as though I missed the sermon and that it was fairly short. The sermon was more about political issues occurring in the Greater Atlanta community and the Moral Monday Georgia protest. The Moral Monday Georgia protest took place just last week on March 18th at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta where 39 protesters including Reverend Raphael Warnock, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, protested a bill that would deny the governor’s ability to participate in the Affordable Care Act’s, or “Obamacare’s,” expansion of Medicaid. “Obamacare” provides healthcare to the lower class socioeconomic status, which many African-Americans are in the state of Georgia. This was something new to me especially not hearing about it on Good Morning America, and I felt that media on this protest should have been covered so that the world could be informed and gain dignity to stand up for what they believe in – having a voice in our society.
After church service, I was able to tour the old Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s father and grandfather preached in favor of segregation, voting rights, and equal pay, which were all huge social issues at the time. Walking into the older church, I was connected immediately to many of the black and white photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. presenting different speeches behind podiums with different faces standing behind him – supporting the change he wanted to see in the South. The art also connected me to vision that Dr. Martin Luther King had for society at the time with other influential leaders that high schools in Chicago are named after such as Whitney Young, one of the most prestigious and well known magnet high schools in the Chicago School District. I then visited the MLK Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc. where I was able to take a picture looking at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s burial in the center of a fluorescent blue fountain/pond. Another touching and reflective moment was being able to see the wagon that carried Dr. Martin Luther King’s body in the precession after his funeral.
Listening to Dr. Bernard Lafayette’s, a Freedom Rider, story gave me more insight to what I could recall in the textbook about African-American history during the Civil Rights era. Textbooks say that Rosa Parks refused to get out of her seat because she was tired that day of all the injustice and unfair treatment, but Dr. Lafayette gave me another perspective that helped me put the pieces together. Anyone can be fed up, tired, upset, or beg for equality for African-Americans by not offering their seat to another human being, but being tired that day isn’t a good and valid excuse for being arrested. Dr. Lafayette shared that Rosa Parks refused to get up from her seat because in the back of her mind, she was thinking about Emmett Till and how badly beaten up and bruised his body was portrayed across all news sources across the nation. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat because she herself wanted to illustrate a picture that would be shared nationwide of what was occurring in the South. The picture of Rosa Parks looking out of a window symbolizes hope that segregation in the South will someday come to an end, that she was indeed thinking about the body of Emmett Till, and that it was time to fight, respectfully for her First Amendment Rights.
Day 2 was learning how to be an encourager and providing support to those that have the heart and drive to make a difference in society. The world has plenty of critics already as we could see the obstacles (people, rules, and State of Alabama government) that Dr. King Jr. had to face.