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  • Visiting The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change was a very unique experience in my life, and something that I will always remember. It is not far from me, only four hours in the bustling metropolis of Atlanta, Georgia but I visited it for the first time when I was 22. The center has exhibits dedicated to both Gandhi, and King. Nearby the U.S. National Parks Service maintains the home of Dr. King, and another exhibit center nearby. Everyone should visit this place at least once in their lifetime. Arguably Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the history of America just as much as some of the Founding Fathers.

    Tucked near downtown Atlanta in a quiet neighborhood is the King Center, his nearby family home, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Only a few yards from Martin Luther King, Jr's family home is his tomb located in the center of a reflecting pool at the King Center. Next to his tomb was entombed his wife Coretta Scott King. At the King Center are kept personal artifacts from Dr. King's life, including the books by Gandhi he personally owned and perused. He traveled with these books according to the exhibit. On display is his personal Bible, suits he wore, and clothing he wore in marches. Another display contains an exhibit for Gandhi. These families related closely to each other. The history of nonviolence in the Civil Rights Movement as inspired by Gandhi runs deep. For me, seeing these artifacts were the most emotional for me. These books that Dr. King read, drawing inspiration from the life of another hero. It spoke to the deep integrity, spirituality, and values that Dr. King was drawing from in his struggle. Here was a man with true vision for the betterment of humanity, with a selflessness comparable to Gandhi's. His character shaped the nonviolent spiritual character of the Civil Rights Movement.

    For me the visit was emotional. The place buzzed with a certain energy only such a monument can exude. It was history come alive in many ways. Monuments across the world are built to politicians, generals, and "great men" or women. Yet here was a monument built to a leader of the People, a humble preacher from Georgia who was destined to change the course of the United States and even the world. As an activist and someone who considers Gandhi a hero I was moved personally as many activists for justice will concur we struggle for the vision of the Beloved Community that King envisioned in our own ways.

    Being that his tomb rests here, there was something special about this place as compared to the King Memorial in D.C. I would visit later. While beautiful, and inspired there was not quiet the same quality with the King Memorial in D.C. as the King Center in Atlanta though the King Center in Atlanta is less monumental architecturally. Perhaps it is the love that Coretta Scott King poured into the King Center which she made her single life's purpose after the passing of her husband.

    Gandhi was always my hero since a young age, and Dr. King was a hero as Gandhi was a hero. As I've talked to civil rights leaders they express the many others in the movement who drove the struggle for civil rights. Ella Baker, the students of SNCC, the Freedom Riders, and many others. All of these brave souls fought for civil rights it is true. They express Dr. King was a man, an inspiring man who was a leader of the movement. Yet there is something I think about Dr. King that you felt was a mixture of destiny, and history. A soulforce, a powerful spirituality behind his leadership His martyrdom would ultimately result in his legacy being ever remembered, and encased in stone. His continued struggle for the Beloved Community, a society free of poverty, war, and racism continued beyond the Civil Rights Movement. This made him at times unpopular with some who were with him in his earlier cause. His opposition to the Vietnam War was well known, and is recalled more as history is taught with truth. He struggled for poverty. I spoke after a panel briefly to Bernard Lafayette, the Poor Peoples' Campaign director that assisted Dr. King in those trying times. He spoke of how the aims of the campaign are still not complete, and how we still have many improvements to make to our nation today to align with King's complete vision.

    The vision of Dr. King lives on. It lives on in this place, the King Center. It lives on in the hearts, and minds of the hundreds of thousands even millions he inspired around the world. It lives on in the historical legacy, the way he changed the course of history in a nation.
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