Fifty years ago this year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. President Kennedy was assassinated before he saw the day come, but when Lyndon Johnson signed the act, he said their was no better tribute to our fallen president.
Many of my personal heroes come from the civil rights era, and though a quick trip to D.C. came at a terribly busy time, I was easily talked into accompanying my husband.
Our 4:30 wake-up call was worth this picture of the sky guy.
Before meeting with kids at schools, we stopped in at the offices of Foulger-Pratt. These boys are Gregor’s former college roommates at BYU. We love these good boys. It’s been years and years since we’ve seen each other, but time had hardly seemed to pass at all. They said we looked exactly the same, but I wonder, are we getting older?
That night we went to a school to speak about Hogwarts. This admissions trip is vastly different than NYC. And it has everything to do with culture, family, and money. I felt so incredibly blessed to have good schools for my kids, that I’m not attending school fairs to get my child out of a terrible district with underfunded schools that don’t even have paper!
I love Hogwarts with all my heart and I wish everyone got a howler – but wouldn’t it be better if every single community made education a top priority and no one had to go outside their community to get a top-rate education? Sigh. School systems are tricky and sticky.
The next day was one of my biggest motivations for traveling to D.C.: A National Mall tour where millions of tourists visit to commemorate past presidents, iconic symbols of america, and to celebrate our veterans.
Beware: If you go to DC, don’t follow my route. It’s rather erratic. Go Here to get the full experience.
We had a few hours, so to get around for our tour, we put on our running shoes. Armed with ipods, and me with my iphone for pictures, we started off.
My tour guide was a little…fast. My tour was more like an interval sprint as I kept stopping to take pictures of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime-moment(!) and then had to sprint back up to my tour guide who was still running! I needed to work on speed anyway.
So much history in this place. It took me a few trips to enjoy NYC, but I loved D.C. right away. Of course I was in a very clean and well-kept area, but the city had a clean, cool vibe.
We didn’t stay long to chat with the IRS!
At every street corner there were suits
The architecture was incredible
The Red Cross, inscribed with: “In Memory of the Heroic Women of the Civil War.” Love that. Wicked Cool The Washington Monument was built to honor George Washington, the first president of the United States. It’s a 555-foot marble obelisk tower overlooking D.C. Found this in the middle of the National Mall. Made me feel right at home.Department of Commerce
The White HouseAnd bomb-sniffing dogs. Are they always around or just this morning?
Next we ran (sprinted) to the WWII Memorial.
From the Pacific the Atlantic…all the states are honored with the fallen
I’ve observed: Musicians, songwriters, photographers, and writers find inspiration in sacred places.
The work of this artist is stunning, detailed, and poignant
I imagine this monument would mean that much more if I was sending my son or daughter into combat.
From there we ran to the Lincoln Monument:
And I stood where Martin stood:This is where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The next year, the Civil Rights Act was passed. Five years later he would be assassinated.The Lincoln Monument. We arrived sweating and tired from running up the stairs. It’s worth all the steps you’ll ever have to climb.
In the middle of a work week in the middle of October, hundreds of tourists were taking pictures. It was striking – most were foreign speaking. Of all the places they could go on vacation, they came to America, the capitol of the United States to take pictures of the symbols and monuments we have built to represent freedom and equality.
Soon after, we were running again, me taking a photo and then sprinting…”Wait up!”
The sprint was worth this photo. It was a gorgeous day.
Eventually we ran by the Smithsonian Castle and museum. By this point, 10 a.m., I was starving, my blood sugar low from lack of breakfast.
But there were still photos to take. Like our nation’s capital…
There was a ceremony taking place
The view from the opposite end of the mall
Like NYC, but to a lesser degree, souvenirs for sale. I just wanted food, not a shirt. Wait up, tour guide!
Thankfully, 7 miles later, he found me an apple in the hotel gym. And I lived another day.
From there we headed to another part of D.C. where our “contact,” was.
While waiting, an old man came out. His name is Walter Ray. He was “just writing down some song lyrics.” And this guy, he’s like 80-years-old and he’s got civil rights history! He’s written songs for “I don’t know who all,” including the The Manhattans .
“Do you all like to write?” he asked.
Husband pointed to me, “She does.”
He shakes my hand and says, “The thing is, you gotta have ambition! You just gotta keep at it.”
And I said, “Sir, I need to get your picture (even though I really hate my hair right now).” He obliged and after, showed me two of his published books of poetry.
I was sufficiently inspired.
Walter’s walls were covered with memorabilia, including this picture. “That’s me with the man right there,” he says.
Walter Ray has two children, Roz and Walter Ray Jr. They are both lawyers. Roz has represented Bill Cosby, Kris Kross, Johnny Cochran – there was an entire wall of autographed photos, including Roz and Hilary Clinton.
Walter Ray jr showed up and we went for crab cakes and talked “business.” Walter looks like this laid-back, casual guy who you may not glance twice at. But he runs a non-profit to help kids go to school. When he starts talking I start taking notes. He knows every basketball stat there is, and connections to everyone in the city.
He hints at political “rats” and scandals, of people who are “distractions to the kids who could actually be somethin’ and you guys is the problem! Masquerading like you’re all that. Rats!” He says, “Satan has a team!”
He says that the best don’t always rise – “most of ’em are in the pen.” Kids, he says, need someone to believe in them. And this of course is where strong families come in.
Walter is working on a documentary of his uncle, Sam Jones, who won ten NBA rings for the Celtics – the second most EVER in history.
We could have listened to Walter all day, but when he writes his book, we’ll be first in line.
After that we headed to Virginia to meet kids at a school. I took pictures of the art on the wall – how cool is this? It was done by artist-in-resident Stephen Parlato. I was so inspired, again wishing that all kids could get an education with an artist like this.
And then it was time to say adieu to D.C.
We raced to the BMI, stopping to drop off our car rental, take a shuttle, grab some dinner, get through security, shove dinner in mouth, and hop on a plane for an hour and a half. We landed in Manchester NH at midnight and drove an hour home. We were greeted by dear grandmother who had watched our children for two days, played chauffeur, fed darlings, AND kept the house clean. I tell ya, we’ve got it good.
The next morning was a full day at Hogwarts as it was parent’s weekend. I walked around campus with my daughter, thinking of this opportunity she has. Not only is there magic, spells, and arithmetic, there are people who love her, take care of her, encourage her “to rise.”
Fifty years ago the civil rights act was passed, and though we still have problems and society isn’t perfect, we’ve come along way, haven’t we? I’m optimistic for the future. As Walter says, “the best don’t rise unless there’s someone tellin’ ’em what’s up.”