Standing where King stood

kingIt was 50 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I Have a Dream‘ speech at the momentous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In some ways, we’ve come a long way: We have a cool Black president, minorities hold top positions and in most developed American cities, moments of blatant racism are far fewer than in 1963.

In other ways, people are getting their knickers twisted over an interracial Cheerios commercial that should have been adorable, has new ads featuring all white faces and New York mayoral candidates are running campaigns based on who can best quell the racial profiling of stop-and-frisk. Maybe we still have a long way to go.

The March on Washington marked the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and on that day, King said, “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” I wonder how he would feel about our progress 50 years after his powerful utterances. Would he have been proud? Disappointed? I imagine some of both.

When I stood on the subtle square in Washington, D.C., marking where Dr. King gave his speech, I looked out over the Reflecting Pool at the Washington Monument and tried to imagine the passion and importance of that day. But I couldn’t imagine it at all. He stirred hundreds of thousands of people to believe the justice they’d been fighting for was within reach and he changed the course of history that day. I still get chills just reading the speech. Nothing compares to the power of witnessing history, but at least we are fortunate enough to be able to visit and appreciate.

That is why I travel. It’s not always about swaying in a beachside hammock or snapping the most Instagram-worthy pics, sometimes it’s just about being a part of history. Walking where many have walked before you. Feeling their struggles, their joys, their triumphs and understanding a little more about how we came to have our feet planted on the same ground.