I recently visited Atlanta for the first time in my adult life. The annual conference for biblical scholarship was swallowing me up, and I needed a day off. So, I took to the streets and headed out for Dr. King’s memorial and place of burial. These last years I have become somewhat of a disciple of Dr. King’s and was excited to catch a glimpse of his church and childhood home.
The journey from my posh four star hotel to the King center would take about 35 minutes. As I turned the corner from downtown toward the I-85 Bridge, I could smell the white ginger hotel shampoo wafting off my hair mixed with that curious scent that rises from urban humanity. The safety of the conference hall soon melted into run down neighborhoods, pawn shops, and corners where homeless men gathered. I was the only non-black in eye’s sight. A wheel-chair bound veteran stopped me there, and I paid tin homage to a man for whom Dr. King gave his life, a man crippled by the triple evil of violence, racism, and poverty. I was shocked. I expected the neighborhood surrounding the King center to be transformed by the vision of this Christian hero.
What would Dr. King have thought of his neighborhood now, this man who will soon have a monument built for him on the National Mall? This man who has no less than 750 streets named for him across the nation. This magnificent Nobel Peace Prizing man whom the children of our world cherish. The nation for which he gave his life will forever be indebted to this man. But how is it that the epicenter of our national memorial of Dr. King and center of his posterity should remain so backward? …