On our last full day of activities, the group went to the Lorraine Motel, Stax Museum, and Beale Street once more to hear about the the photography and life of Earnest Withers. Going to the Lorraine motel was somewhat triggering for me. It made me realize the full gravity of what Dr. King and his family sacrificed in order to reach total freedom. All of those heavily involved in the civil rights movement would have been aware that their lives were in jeopardy, and it could have been so much easier for leaders or their families to turn back in the name of their lives, but so many of them did not. MLK is by far the most renown civil rights leader of his time, but in no way was he the only who lost his life during the struggle. There are so many unnamed men and women who paved the way for my freedoms today, and visiting the Lorraine motel served as a sort of homage to MLK, but also all who lost their lives and loved ones during the movement.
Next, we visited the Stax Museum of jazz music and history. This museum was a blast, but aside from that it taught us the atmosphere of racism in the music world, and from what I heard, there was little. Documentary clips and interviews, from both black and white, all told the tale that what mattered was the music, not the color of your skin. This was refreshing to learn about and be immersed in. Music is a huge part of my life, because it serves as a sort of outlet from all of the other stressors in my life. At rehearsal or when performing, truly nothing matters other than the music that people are hearing. It was inspirational to learn that the music made during that time period was not discriminatory of race, and often times whites and blacks collaborated with each other, creating an even more culturally rich end result.
Our final stop was at an art exhibit at the very end of Beale Street. This art exhibit was devoted to Earnest Withers and his photographs. Every inch of the walls were covered in large-scale prints of his photos categorized into the civil rights movement, african americans in baseball, and the sanitation strike in Memphis. Alongside each photo was a brief description and background as to the context of the photo. We were lectured by Earnest Withers’ daughter and she gave us keen insight as to what it was like during the time period and the very interesting life of a photographer. All the photos in the exhibit were phenomenal, there were some I had never seen before, but the most striking photo was of a man who had been attacked by the KKK. A partial print of the photo hung on a wall of the exhibit, but the full and most raw photo of the man was behind the counter. I asked to see the photo, and the man behind the counter hesitated and said, “Are you sure you want to see it?” I said yes, and when he showed it to me I couldn't truly comprehend what I saw. The man on the table was fully naked for the exception of a cloth over his genitals. His face was bruised and scratched and his entire body was scathed, but the most shocking part of the picture was his thigh. This mans thigh was completely detached from his bone. I really had no way to comprehend the gravity of his state, or the amount of pain associated with his death. This photo served as a reminder as to the power that hate holds over some people and the duty we have to each other to eradicate this hate.