Irreconciliation Thoughts by Sylvia Broome, Sweet Auburn Ave Community Facilitator
I’m walking with my youth group and we’re on a trip to Atlanta. We’ve seen some sights and are just leaving the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. We’re on our way to the CNN Center for lunch and to look around.
We’re walking up Auburn Avenue, the street where the American Civil Rights movement began. Giants of the movement, Dr. King, Ralph David Abernathy, John Wesley Dobbs and Ella Joe Baker lived and worked on this street. We saw the pictures at the King Center and read the stories. We met Park Rangers who shared the history of the Civil Rights movement.
It was interesting, but it was long ago. It was history and this trip was not supposed to be school. I was looking forward to seeing the CNN Center and the other fun things to do here in Atlanta.
Before we walked our leaders told us not to talk to anyone on the street. Don’t even look at them, they are dangerous and will ask you for money if you do. We’re a group of white students and all the people around are black. They do look dangerous, and even our leaders are nervous. We walk quickly with our heads down.
There’s a few men on the sidewalk in front of a store which has a big yellow bicycle in front of it. I wonder what that’s about, but I don’t dare ask. The sidewalk is narrow and we push past. We won’t look or even say hi, we push past and keep walking. That’s what we’ve been told to do.
Up ahead I see a group of people stranding around a truck. What are they doing? Why are they there? There’s a white lady and two black men. There’s a black woman there, too. Why is the white lady there? Is she in trouble? Does she need help?
As we pass, one of the men calls out to us. He says hi several times, but we keep walking. It’s what we’ve been told to do. He’s really big and has a loud voice. He keeps saying hi and asks were we are going. Finally, I say, “CNN Center” but I keep my head down and keep moving. I notice that some of the kids are looking at the group of people, but no one speaks. They just look and keep walking. That’s what we have been told to do.
Finally, the man calls out, “What, are you afraid of me?” Our leaders stare, but they don’t talk and walk quickly by. Soon, we are out of this dangerous area and we can relax. There are people around, people like us, sitting in the parks and restaurants, enjoying lunch. We all can breathe again, the danger is passed.
We walk to the CNN Center, laughing and talking to each other. We smile and say hi to those on the street. Our leaders are relaxed and happy. The danger we faced as we walked from the Martin Luther King Center, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement to the CNN Center, the heart of the downtown Atlanta tourist district is gone.
We don’t have to keep our heads down and walk quickly past those we meet.
They are safe.
They are like us.