I just returned from a brief trip to Memphis, Tennessee and visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the site of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The museum has incorporated much of the Lorraine Hotel (including the room in which Dr. King stayed and the balcony outside that room where he was killed) as well as the apartment across the street from the hotel where James Earl Ray aimed and fired from a bathroom window and took Dr. King’s life. I recall the exact moment when I learned of Dr. King’s death and to be able to view the site of his assassination in an "up close and personal" manner was an extremely powerful experience for me. I highly recommend a visit to the museum if you are in the Memphis area and suggest that you view the short movie at the museum called "The Witness" before beginning to tour the exhibits.
As I made my way through the museum, I was reminded that many of the freedoms we take for granted today are the result of great sacrifices and courageous efforts by Americans of all colors and beliefs. I couldn’t help but marvel that less than fifty years ago, Dr. King was gunned down simply because many of his fellow countrymen could not accept the fact that all Americans were entitled to certain basic rights. The fact that many of the injustices that Dr. King sought to overcome have been remedied speaks volumes to his legacy and to the laws that our federal and local legislators have enacted during the past five decades.
My visit to the museum reminded me about the direct connection between the Civil Rights laws and the Fair Housing and Disability laws that often create divisive problems for board members and other residents in the communities we work with. Those Fair Housing and Disability laws built upon the earlier Civil Rights laws and extend rights of equality to which all Americans are entitled. The underlying philosophy of all of these laws is simply that no American should be deprived of certain opportunities, whether in employment, or voting, or obtaining housing, simply because of his or her color or religion or disability. Unless our legislators carve out an exception (such as the Housing for Older Persons Act), it’s that underlying philosophy that should guide ROC board members.
Some forty-two years after Dr. King’s death, it’s an important lesson for all of us to remember.
Thanks to our friends at Francis I in Sebring for hosting last week’s well-attended seminar. We’ll be at Windward Isles in Sarasota and Marco Shores in Naples this week and at Caribbean Isles in Apollo Beach during the last week in February. If you’d like to attend one of these free seminars and haven’t yet rsvp’d, please contact either Karen Midlam at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kathy Sawdo at email@example.com. I hope to see you at one of these events.