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Lorraine Motel and The National Civil Rights Museum


I wasn’t going to post today, Martin Luther King Day. But last month I got to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN and it was life changing. The museum is built around the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was surreal. I know that you typically come to my blog for easy recipes and stylish products. But I feel compelled to share my experience. Martin Luther King was assissinated at Lorraine Motel in MemphisI’m going to be real honest. I grew up comfortably middle class with not a ton of diversity in our neighborhood or school. Growing up that way, you have a skewed vision of what life is really like in the majority of our country. I didn’t see racism but only now am I understanding that it was always there.

There was really no way to fully understand the enormity of the civil rights movement, for me. In my limited understanding, segregation was over so everything must be fine. Right? Fast forward to 2014 as I sat, with my 10-year-old, watching Ferguson burning on TV, and I have no idea how to explain to him what is going on. Their school is much more diverse than mine was and it’s one of the reasons that I love it. We had never had to talk about race because they see the kids as their classmates and nothing more. Being from different cultures had never been a problem in any way, to any of them. So did I want my first conversation about race to introduce the idea that to some people, there are inferior cultures or less important in some way? Would that change how my own kids see people? I think I glossed over the racial undertones of the Michael Brown case and focused instead on talking about abuse of power and making snap judgements.

A little over a year ago, our family was blessed when my sister-in-law opened her home to two foster sons (our new nephews), who are black. I talked carefully about how when we are out with the boys, that people might not understand that they are part of our family. We talked about how they might respond to comments and talked about how our job was to love and protect our new family. The love that my boys have for their cousins is the best thing that could have happened to my family. They have gotten to know these boys and bond with them in a familial way. They are protective, helpful, and encouraging of their cousins. And while I know that it isn’t necessary to have a close bond with a black person to know that we should have their backs, it is one of the things that lead me to this place of speaking out.

The wreath in the photo above, is where Martin Luther King Jr. died. And standing there, thinking about all that Martin Luther King Jr. stood for, I finally got it. It’s not enough to teach my kids that all of their classmates are no different from them. Instead, it’s my job to teach my kids to do more. To speak out about any injustices they see and make sure that their role in the world leaves it better than where we stand as a country right now. Lorraine Motel at the National Civil Rights MuseumThe Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King Jr. was staying while in town to support the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968. Demonstrating against ridiculously low wages and unsafe working conditions, local civil rights groups, public works employees, and local religious leaders came together to take a stand and get equal rights for the sanitation workers. On April 4th, as King was getting ready to go to dinner, he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. National Civil Rights Museum in MemphisThe National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is built around the Lorraine Motel. The museum is SO well done! The design is gorgeous and the way they share the story of Black American struggle, starting with slavery, is amazing. And eye-opening. And gut wrenching. And brings forward all kinds of emotions as you really learn what growing up with dark skin – especially in the South, was really like. Couple that with the fact that we were visiting touristy spots, where it felt, to me, like there was a lot of profiting going on with the sharing of slave history…Life changing. "I am a man" signs from the Memphis Sanitation StrikeThe signs that sanitation workers carried through out the strike said it best. “I am a man.” No man should ever have to remind someone else that they are a human being and deserve basic rights and civilities. I had been frustrated with the “Black Lives Matter” slogan. Don’t we all matter?? But I see now that semantics is what keeps so much confusion related to that term. They aren’t saying that black lives are more important. They are saying, “I am a man,” in a new way. The fact that we are saying this, in 2017, shows how much more work there is to do. I bought a magnet, a small replica of the “I am a man” sign, and knew instantly that I needed to share this story with my kids. Sure they are learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in school. But are they really being taught why he was willing to lose his life so that others could have a better one? Are they learning about why he and other activists were needed to bring civil rights in to the light?Martin Luther King was assassinated at Motel Lorraine in Memphis“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK Day is not just a day off of school. It’s a chance to check ourselves and see if we are serving others. I came across this amazing video that will help remind you about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service. I hope we will all keep this in mind, for all future MLK Days, and every day in between.

This video was made by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

President Johnson's address in 1965President Lyndon B. Johnson was integral in getting the Sanitation Strike ended after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. And his words, speaking on Selma, hold true today. We all must “overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice”. And do something about it. Even though we might not see instances of racial prejudice in our own community, it is still something that we need to openly talk about with the kids. I’m just sorry that it took me this long, at 39, the same age Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was when he died, to have my eyes opened.

If you ever get to Memphis, please make it a point to stop by the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. It’s truly powerful.

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled light and fluffy content on Wednesday.

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