Sep 20

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Walking and Rolling: The MLK Memorial

This has to stop happening! The minute I stepped out of my cabin this morning, it started raining. I had literally looked out of the window. It was cloudy, but dry. Then, bam! It starts raining. ‘No big deal’, I thought, ‘that’s why I stayed at this camp site, so that I could take the shuttle into DC anyway’.

Not so fast. As I entered the central campground office to re-check on the schedule, I was told the shuttle was full. The person at the front desk informed that reservations were taken the day before and by now, unless someone canceled, there was no space for me. The only other choice was to ride 18 miles to the metro station, park the motorcycle there, and take the train. Hmm. Yea. In the rain.

I prayed, and stuck around just in case. Shortly before the departure time things did not look good. The waiting area was pretty full. The shuttle call came in and they all filed into the bus. Finally the bus operator came in. Good News! There was a seat that they usually do not account for because it is next to the driver. I was in.

Wow. I knew I would not be deterred today, but the alternatives were pretty tough. Thank God it all worked out.

The shuttle dropped us off by the Capitol, and from there I took off, in the rain and wearing chancletas, towards the Washington monument, on Independence Avenue. As I walk towards the days destination, I had the chance to walk in and out of museums and Smithsonian exhibits. At the botanical gardens I had the chance to see a cocoa tree bearing flowers and fruit. It has always amazed me how the very small flowers, white and attached to the main trunk, similar to papayas in that sense, bear such a big and rich fruit. This was of special importance to me in this trip, since cocoa is one of those products that plays an important role in slave labor. A very large percentage of the world’s cocoa beans is harvested in West Africa by children, and under slave-like conditions. So, for the abolitionist community, this is one of those central topics and awareness points.

While at the botanical gardens, I also enjoyed a stroll on their canopy walkway, in their tropical forest section. Today though, the weather outside seemed more tropical than the one inside.

My route took me through the Museum of the American Indian, and the Air and Space Museum. At the latter I had the chance to see some of my favorite planes, such as the British Spitfire, which always reminds of my dad, since this was the first model airplane he gave me as a kid.

Eventually I made it to the Washington Monument, where Canada geese were hanging out, and shortly thereafter to the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War memorial. There I turned up the street. Soon I could see the MLK memorial, and I started slowing down my pace. I feeling of honor, and humbleness started overtaking me. I had seen a TV report on the memorial a few weeks ago, so I had in me the full awareness of the significance of the different elements. Approaching it from behind I could see the Mountain of Despair, created by using two large blocks of stone, with a third block cut out of it. I moved slowly to the side, and finally towards the front, where I could see the material expression of “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”, as the statue of Dr. King emerges form a third block of stone, placed forward from the other two. A semicircle of polished black stone, shows a number of the quotes from Dr. King, carved out using a font that was created specifically for the memorial by the MacArthur Genius Award winner John Stevens Shop.

Especially touching for me was the “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” (18 April 1959, Washington, DC)” quote. This is a commitment I hope to carry out in whatever remains of my life, and a commitment I dream will also make itself manifest in the promising life of my daughter, Adelina.

Even on a rainy day, the memorial was visited by people of a variety of races, nations and backgrounds. It was a palpable statement of the righteousness of this effort, and the vast reach of Dr. King’s work. I felt honored to be there. I am thankful to God for bringing me this far. I am thankful for all those who continue to work for the rights of all people, in the most fundamental and universal way. I am thankful for freedom today.

Tomorrow begins the long way back home. I will be heading to Memphis, but I will take two days to get there. The road promises to be an arduous one. Many miles are ahead, and the weatherman promises more rain and storms. I treasure your prayers while I travel.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jaderiderjourneys.com/2endslavery/2011/09/20/walking-and-rolling-the-mlk-memorial/


  1. Ade

    I also saw cacao the other day, but no flowers.
    What a powerful moment to get to visit that monument. I read that some people felt like Dr. K should have looked more welcoming rather than intimidating (I believe the sculptor was Chinese and used a very soviet style). What do you think?

  2. Sandra

    Good post, love. I like hearing it from you in this way too!

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