I am currently reading, and have been for the past 2.5 months (! - it's fricken HUGE...and I'm slow) a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. called "Bearing the Cross" -- It's really, really good, extremely thorough, and well written. I would definitely recommend it.
I am about half way through it, just finished reading about the Birmingham Protests and the March on Washington. Over the weekend I came to a part that referenced this particular image of a cop holding a police dog in one hand and a black citizen in the other. I wasn't familiar with it so I googled it, and now you can see it below.
The Birmingham Protests turned out to be a huge step forward in the civil rights movement. It was the first time that white america was really introduced to the brutality and inhumane tactics that were used to enforce segregation and keep black americans in their place.
When movement leaders were discussing making Birmingham their next focal point for protests and progress, I found it most interesting and inspiring to read about their assessments of the situation juxtaposed with their complete lack of debilitating fear for that which was such a daunting task. Birmingham, and/or Bull Connor - the police chief in command at the time, had reputations that superseded them as being "the symbol of brutality, & police brutality in the South".
To know what they knew going into it, and to be armed with just a hope and faith that they could overcome and have THAT be enough is just absolutely amazing to me. And (!) half of the leaders had just experienced a disenchanting outcome in Albany trying to accomplish the same thing, and in which most of the nation deemed a failure and they went into it anyways - and succeeded. The bravery and courage that is constantly exhibited in the leaders of this book and MLK Jr himself is something I hope to carry with me the rest of my life. Activism is truly in art form in and of itself.
Awhile back, I went to see a photojournalism exhibit at the Annenburg Space for Photography - it mainly focused on areas of war & conflict. For those of you that don't know, photojournalism/documentary photography is the path I would like to pursue when I decide to become a responsible, professional adult. :) he he -- I left that exhibit questioning if I could really DO it. If I, sensitive me who covers her eyes when watching scenes of explicit violence, could be in a war zone and compose myself enough to take a picture of someone in pain, or holding their dead brother and screaming - an image that has stuck with me from that exhibit and brought me to tears upon seeing it.
What I admire most about MLK Jr. is that he was able to overcome his fear about what would happen to him while being thrust into the forefront of the civil rights movement. Although it was not a position he wanted, it was a position he accepted because he believed strongly in what he was fighting for and against. He was quoted saying, "I think when a person lives with the fear of the consequences for his personal life, he can never do anything in terms of lifting the whole of humanity and solving many of the social problems that we confront".
So, I write this as a homage to those that have fought before me, and for me - Thank You. Also, I end this with a universal "prayer" that one day my fear lifts, my shoulders become lighter, my path clearer, and my spirit braver.