By Rachael DeMarce
Even on a warm day in Atlanta I felt the heat from the Eternal Flame across from the tomb of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The plaque states “The Eternal Flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King’s ideals for the ‘Beloved Community’ which requires lasting personal commitment that cannot weaken when faced with obstacles.” The warmth the flame provided reminded me that his legacy and philosophy live on today.
We continued down Auburn Avenue, on a sidewalk that I could visualize Dr. King walking on, into Ebenezer Baptist Church. Opening the doors was like stepping into history. I sat in the front pew looking directly at the microphone that he used when preaching. I could not help but feel touched and wonder what it would be like to hear his voice in person. Ernest Rip Patton reminded us how fortunate we are as students. I glanced across the street to see Rip, an original Freedom Rider, who was talking to a group of about fifty elementary students and thought, “what a treat for them.” I have learned that the original Freedom Riders take each opportunity, even if it’s an impromptu one, to share their stories.
In elementary school, I often found myself the only student of color, and because of this I discovered a personal connection to the struggles of African Americans during the civil rights movement. These events however lived only in textbooks. The students in the grass across Auburn Avenue were living history, and they were living it with us.