On the corner of 42nd and Bull, inside the Say Hey & Mary’s Lounge, there’s a sign that reads, in part, “Please! Take serious notice, the Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put his life on the line in order for us to go inside of business establishments …”
For those searching for Dr. King’s message in today’s complicated world, a cursive message on a wall in Savannah is a simple reminder. The right to enter, is also a right to leave, and to do as one pleases, without fear of reprisal, and regardless of our differences. As a white male living in the South, the fact that Dr. King even had to fight — and ultimately risk his life — for these universal rights will forever be personally jarring,
Yet his legacy in Savannah, a city of many firsts for African-Americans, continues to be a reminder of the triumph of Dr. King’s indomitable spirit. Savannah’s place in civil rights history is as firm as the stone that girds the W.W. Law Foundation on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum two blocks down, and is as central to our city’s promising future as Mayor Jackson’s office at City Hall.
As national, regional and local events continue to punctuate our 24-7 news cycle with evidence of a lingering divide, it is a critical reminder that the work is still not done. Like anything worth accomplishing, Dr. King’s hope for a post-racial society will take constant care and effort. His message has always been a personal inspiration, and is as timely today on January 19, 2015 as it was on August 28, 1963.
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.