When We Leave: Memorials of So Much and So Little

By Brian Beckman

I finally got the chance to see the MLK memorial in DC. It was breathtaking.

You walk through a stoned divide, representing the mountain of despair. The air calms and the night stills on the Potomac. And there around the corner is Dr. King, looking sternly, ever ready to continue the fight for freedom.

A chorus of people raised their hands up and sang gospel songs. I don’t really like memorials. But this one – this one I could have stayed and spent hours together. In this place it is like his dream was a reality, people of all walks, all backgrounds coming together in peaceful unity.

But a strange thing happens. To leave you walk back out into the night through the mountain of despair. And you remember not all that much has really changed. Out here you can’t breathe because injustice can choke you to death.

And when you raise your hands up, you can still got shot. MLK is nothing out here but a platitude.

Something to quote in mid January to make yourself seem woke.

Never mind the harder realities he spoke out against. Things like the fact that as long as we have socioeconomic inequality, we will have racial inequality.

That what white America took as an end, was just a beginning of a conversation it would rather ignore.

And it leaves you questioning how can a memorial mean so much and also mean so little.


Brian Beckman is a writer from Portland, Oregon, who lives in Durham, NC, but is constantly traveling to Rwanda. When he isn't writing, he is the director of a nonprofit called the Kefa Project ( www.kefaproject.org), which uses sports in Rwanda to help vulnerable youth reconcile with their families, get back into education, and experience the love of God.

[Picture Credit: Brian Beckman]