Normally I take my son to his 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. Traffic was light and not many cars driving in the city considering it was 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 sparse. I kept driving, all the way to the 16th St and 6th Ave. While the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute fills an entire block, small 16th St. Baptist Church dominates the square.

I parked my car and strolled through Kelly Ingram Park. You know it by this photo:

Nearly 50 Years Ago

The only people in the park are the homeless, TV crews, and food trucks setting up for the day. It feels quiet and alone.

Instead of being a place for idle time or relaxation like most parks, Kelly Ingram is filled with a dread sense of history – reinforced by the statues and monuments to Civil Rights Era protests. It’s not the sort of place one goes 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 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.

“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.”


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