Normally I take my son to his early school in the suburbs during the week. But he’s been sick this weekend with a fever so I took him downtown to my wife’s hospital this morning to stay in their on-site ill child care. The traffic was incredibly light and there were not many cars driving in the city for 7 a.m. Then it struck me that it is Martin Luther King Day.
After I dropped him off, I kept driving further into the city. Traffic became even more sparse. I kept driving, all the way to the 16th St and 6th Ave. While the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is larger and fills an entire block, the 16th St. Baptist Church sitting right next to it still dominates the square.
I park my car and stroll through Kelly Ingram Park. You know it by this photo:
The only people in the park are the homeless, TV crews, and food trucks setting up for the day. And the homeless are making themselves scarce as more TV crews descend on the edges of the park. It feels quiet and alone.
Instead of being a place for idle time or relaxation like most parks, Kelly Ingram is filled with a sort of dread sense of history – reinforced by the statues and monuments to Civil Rights Era protests. It’s not the sort of place one comes to have fun.
But it shouldn’t be. It stands in remembrance to the sacrifices made by those who believed in liberty for all men and women. That bigotry and narrow-minded zeal could not stand the scrutiny of the righteous. It is a reminder to me that I couldn’t have married my wife a scant 40 years ago.
The park stands for freedom from persecution and that “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. ” A reminder that we must remain vigilant to the dark currents that exist among us. A monument to people who will fight for what they know is right and:
“that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”