It's 2015, so I'm sure the gyms are packed. I don't know personally, because for some reason I guess I feel better donating to the fitness facilities each month rather than getting what I'm paying for. I feel strange resolving to do things because it seems, like most people, that it would take more than numbers on a calendar to incite personal change. Over this winter holiday with Andy I've gotten the opportunity to see just how much things have changed when it comes to social issues by visiting both the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum in Atlanta, and the National Civil Rights Museum of Memphis. With this experience centering around the New Year, the idea of personal change and what initiates it has been resonating.
When we walked into the (free) MLK Jr. Museum, I was prepared to learn things I wouldn't otherwise know from school books. What I was not prepared for were the emotions I felt throughout the tour. The first room we walked into outlined Dr. King's life, including the mule-drawn carriage his body was placed in after his death. When I saw the pictures of everyone who showed up to march in his memory, I couldn't help but to cry. This, along with images of Coretta Scott King sitting at her husband's funeral, truly exposed the spirit of the entire movement for me. Moving through the rest of the museum reinforced those emotions, as pictures and videos of violent backlash against peaceful demonstration continued. How could anyone do such heinous things? What would it take for people who think like this to change?
After a few more days of sight-seeing and great eating, we returned to Memphis, and the first thing I wanted to do was to go to the Civil Rights Museum, which many people were surprised that I'd never visited before. There was lots of overlap in the information, of course, but because I grew up in Memphis the history was much more personal. Even at the start of the tour, the guides were purposeful in their use of the word "we", when it comes to the injustices black people have faced for centuries. Things like Jim Crow are explored there from a very "then and now" perspective, and simple maps of the city can show why I, for example, grew up in the neighborhood I did. It's said everyday and I'll say it again: We've come a long way but it's clear that we've got a long way to go.
I've taken many things from my visit to these two museums that I'm going to let marinate in my mind a little more (a few of which are listed below, [hover for description]), but the most important, in my opinion, is that people are capable of change. Once upon a time it was universally acceptable to own another person, but the evolution of (many of) our minds has changed that. If someone's dogging you out for saying "New Year, New Me", let them remain the cynic! If you believe you can be a new, better version of you, I say go for it. If 2015 brought you into the gym for the first time in an era, good for you! Even if you never go back that's one day you spent there. I think anyone who thinks people can't change to a certain extent should have more faith in what we're capable of. For my sake, I hope some of you at least try to be a better you. I try to do it everyday.