My Necklace, My Hope - Childhood Memories of MLK

A reflection by Kathleen Atkins

As I think about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I think back to my childhood, listening to my mother and grandmother talk about him. My mother was born in Atlanta, GA, was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and played with Martin Luther King Jr. when they were children. My grandmother told stories of what it was like living in the segregated south. She spoke of the racial discrimination and Jim Crow. However, when my grandmother spoke of MLK her eyes lit up with a sense of pride and hope for my future. My grandmother was inspired by him and the movement he launched, as was I. And, although I knew nothing of the segregated south at the time, I did know what racial discrimination felt like. I witnessed first-hand my brother being harassed and accosted by Detroit police officers for no apparent reason.

I remember being a teenager and crying while listening to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. His message was one of freedom, equality, and most importantly, hope. I received a gift from my aunt. It was a necklace with the inscription “I Have a Dream” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was thrilled and proud to have something so special that represented MLK and remember showing it off to my friends. We chanted together, “I have a dream!”

This statement still resonates with me today, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter, gay pride, and gender equality movements. Watching our country continue to be torn and divided over color, gender, and political views, I feel the pain of other marginalized people as acts of discrimination are seen across America. My hope is for a unified country where everyone is treated equally, not judged by the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation. 

A country where everyone is free to live, thrive and realize the American dream for themselves and for the generations to come.
Kathleen Atkins  | SVP, Program Operations & Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer