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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care
CYC-Online Issue 90 JULY 2006 / BACK
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Postcard from Atlanta

Greetings from Atlanta! They said it would be Hotlanta but we know it also rains in this part of the world. One sunny day, we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. Along with children of all ages, as well as parents and grandparents, we made our way to Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn District and spent an afternoon reflecting on the significance of this man's life and work for the peoples of America. We were reminded that children played very important roles in the Civil Rights marches.

Father and daughter contemplate the Freedom Marches

We were struck during our visit to this National Memorial by the number and the age range of those who made sojourns to this special place of remembering. Young children and parents, teenagers, and grandparents – of all races – were there; quietly reflecting on the life and teachings of this amazing man, of the continuing work of Coretta Scott King and of Rosa Parks, the gutsy civil rights pioneer who initiated the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that changed the way black people used that city’s buses. We sat in old Ebenezer Baptist Church as people quietly came and went, listening to one of Dr King’s tape recorded sermons, reflecting on the theme of social responsibility to make this world a better place today, as well as for the future.

Visitors of all ages come to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

It was good to be reminded of the influence that Mahatma Ghandi and his teachings had on the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. Filled with anger and rage at the way black people had been and were being treated by the dominant population in America, Ghandi’s non-violence teachings offered a strategy that helped capture a nation's moral high ground. Non-violence classes and practical lessons about keeping safe without retaliation became a social movement that transformed the American Civil Rights movement into an effective strategy for change. I found myself reflecting on the extent to which we child and youth care workers actually teach our kids about the use of non-violent approaches such as those advocated by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Or, is teaching about non-violence neglected as an integral feature of our work? Do we focus more on individual problem-solving and group decision-making – no matter how important – while neglecting altruistic moral and ethical codes for community living? I came away from Atlanta’s Auburn Street with a renewed sense of just how important moral and ethical training is in our work.

Non-violence and readiness to go to jail in pursuit of freedom

And once again I was mesmerized by the words of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech given at the steps of Washington's Lincoln Memorial in 1963: “In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. – I have a dream today.”

The wagon that carried Dr Martin Luther King Jr to his last resting place

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