Reflections on Voices in History
Monday, December 18, 2017
Posted by Lena Fielder, Dr. Sola Popoola, Lauretta Freeman-Horn and Leslie Cordie
On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis Tennessee. As part of the AAACE 2017 Conference, a special event was held at the National Civil Rights Museum – Lorraine Hotel. The evening event was a special moment for all who attended. Through artifacts, oral histories, interactive media, and listening posts the Museum gave voice to injustices that marked some of the most turbulent time in our nation’s history. It was truly a unique educational opportunity that corresponded with the theme of the 2017 Conference and highlighted the value of Adult Education.
Memorable to this evening was the sharing of a special moment with a diverse gathering of colleagues and graduate students. The Museum’s artifacts became a focal point for reflection both this tragic event and on personal experiences of many in attendance. To start the evening, we were dropped off at the side of the Lorraine Hotel. The place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his last moments. Along with a listening post narrating the event, a stark, white wreath hung from the balcony of the hotel – marking the site of the assassination. A sense of sadness seemed to emanate from the group, yet amidst the sorrow, murmurings and expressions of gratitude for the living legacy of freedom could be heard.
Many poignant moments occurred as we then moved through the Museum. Especially striking was a replica bus and full statue of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. Such a small woman but such a strong woman in the movement for equality.
The most moving event was yet to come after dinner. A sister of one of the Freedom Riders was in attendance at the event along with a close associate of Dr. King, the Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. Dr. Lafayette is a longtime civil rights activist, organizer, and an authority on nonviolent social change. He co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960, and he was a central figure of the civil rights movement. His sister, Rozelia (Lafayette) Kennedy, is a doctoral student of Dr. Waynne James. Rozelia shared her thoughts and narrated the events prior to Dr. Lafayette leaving Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on that sad day. She reflected on how Dr. Lafayette was informed of Dr. King’s assassination. Today, Dr. Lafayette continues to teach on nonviolence and lives in Tuskegee, Alabama. Rozelia was just completing and preparing to defend her doctoral dissertation that focused on brother’s life. We were left in awe after we came face to face with and voice of the continued struggle for freedom and justice.
We hope to continue to hear the voices of history and learn from them. Most importantly, we were inspired to continue creating an educational legacy that would influence justice for all humanity.
The picture shows left to right: Dr. Sola Popoola, Rozelia Kennedy, Lauretta Freeman-Horn, Lena Fielder.