MLK Day Reflection - January 22nd, 2019

Growing up as an upper-middle class, white male in the far western suburbs of Chicago, I never experienced social or racial inequality. I certainly could never relate to those who had. To me, social and racial inequality was a thing of the past.

It wasn’t until I began to pay more attention to the news a couple years ago and spent a summer in Memphis interning, when I realized not only does racism exist, but it exists now in many of the same ways that it always has. That realization left me feeling guilty that I was blind to it for so long.

Visiting the National Civil Rights museum for the first time in the summer of 2017 was one of the most moving experiences of my life. It reached me like nothing ever had before and forced me to reflect in ways that I never dared to prior. Walking through the halls of the museum and seeing the role that systemic racism has played in shaping the history of the United States really changed my perspective; so much has changed and yet so much remains the same. Never before has one single place made me feel sad, angry, disappointed, hopeful, and inspired all at the same time.

On Monday, January 21, 2019, I experienced those same feelings when I had the opportunity to participate in my first Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Memphis. Seeing all of the marches take place outside the Lorraine Motel and all the people gathered to remember and celebrate MLK was unforgettable. To honor the experience I put together a photo essay to capture the emotion of the day and the beauty a location where such a tragic thing occurred just 50 years ago.