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Posts Tagged ‘Roads to Memphis’

Two men climbing into the back of a garbage truck to escape the rain are crushed, and so set into motion a strike that will paralyze a city, empower a people, and bring into their midsts one of the great orators in U.S. history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  The city is Memphis, the year is 1968, and it is the place where Dr. King will die at the hands of escaped convict, James Earl Ray.  But before he dies his words will once more stir the hearts and minds of a downtrodden people.   I encourage you to watch the documentary Roads to Memphis to hear Dr. King’s words and indeed the words of the Memphis garbage workers who kept a city clean but could not ride the buses and who felt the need to walk the streets wearing a placard stating clearly, “I am a man.”  I’ve read mixed reviews of the documentary, with negative comments ranging from “it’s not riveting” or “it’s weak and filled with potholes.”  Apparently it brings to light nothing new about the assassination.

Well … perhaps the lens through which I watched the film was different than the reviewers.  What stood out to me were the stories told, and reflected in those stories were the choices people made.  Like the choice the little boy made to participate in the peaceful march through Memphis streets after King’s death.  “Well,” he says when asked why he’s in the march, “I took part in this march today because of Martin Luther King and for what he stood for, because this march is what he died for, and I think that if he died for it, I could carry out what he started.”

Irena Sendler made a choice.  A young Polish Catholic, she and her young friends chose to help the Jewish children dying on the streets in Warsaw during the early 1940’s.  They smuggled the children out of the ghetto and into the homes of individuals as well as into convents and orphanages.  The children were taught Catholic prayers and how to behave in a Christian church so that if they were ever stopped by Gestapo they would know what to do.  And, in 1942,  “as conditions worsened and thousands of Jews were rounded up daily and sent to die at the Treblinka death camp, less than hour outside Warsaw, Sendler and her cohorts began to appeal to Jewish parents to let their children go. ”  They kept careful record of the children’s Jewish names so that they could be reunited with their parents.  Of the 2,500 or so children they saved most had no parents or family members to return to, but some did.  You can see the stories of both the horror and the beauty that people chose to do to and for each other in the documentary, Irena Sendler: In the Name of Their Mothers.

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