think, remember, reflect
Exhibit in the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta
A touch-activated counter times at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta how long visitors can keep their composure.

I grew up in the segregated South. In my seven years of elementary school, four years of high school, and four years of college, there was never a black student in my school.

I was there on the Sunday morning in 1960 when the leaders of my Methodist church gathered nervously on the front steps fearful that a black family was going to come to worship. When I asked my Dad what everybody was afraid of, he said, “you don’t understand.”

I was there at my college when the Board of Trustees voted to refuse admission to a black applicant. When I asked the prominent Methodist minister on the Board why, he told me I didn’t understand.

And I was there in 1964 when my friend, Fred, the editor of the school newspaper, published the entire text of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The struggle and the horrors and the violence of the Civil Rights movement were current events, The AP machine at WTRP Radio in LaGrange spit out the stories, and I read them on the air.

I was growing up, and I opened my eyes. Television played a major role in my awakening. Bull Connor’s fire hoses, the Edmund Pettis Bridge, the riots, Dr. King, the viciousness of the sit-ins, changed me.

I’m not proud of the South of my childhood, nor am I proud of what it stood for. As I search through my family’s genealogy I’m sure I’m finding slave owners and countless bigots. I don’t disown my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They were who they were, and I loved them. I’m proud of my father and all that he accomplished in his short life. I also think I knew who he was. He was a conservative and a product of the South. But I wish I knew more.

Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta was taken by Mark Herboth
Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta

I came face-to-face with my Southern heritage recently at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

The exhibitions there have sharp edges. They are far from subtle, and rightfully so. They make you think, and remember and reflect on who you are, who you were, and the construction of your soul. I have often said that everybody needs somebody to hate. And it’s true. If it’s not African-Americans, it’s Muslims, or Native Americans, or members of the LGBT community, or the Serbs.

So where are we? There’s progress, but there is much to be done. My worry is whether or not we can do enough. And I don’t know the answer to that question.

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Image credits: the photo of the exhibit in the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta was taken by Albert Vecerka/Esto for the @RockwellGroup (promotional/fair use): the photo of the exterior of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta was taken by Mark Herboth and is from the Center for Civil and Human Rights’ website (fair use).
Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a professional mentalist and mind reader who presents his unique and unforgettable program to conventions, college and universities, sales meetings, private parties, business and civic clubs and more. He has also appeared at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta and produces, along with Jerry Farber and Joe M. Turner, Atlanta Magic Night at the Red Light Cafe in Midtown. He is a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Georgia Magic Club,Buckhead Rotary Club and Friends of Jim The Wonder Dog. You can learn more at www.MarkJohnsonSpeaks.com. He is the author of three books: "Living The Dream," the story of the first ten years of FedEx; "Superman, Hairspray, and the Greatest Goat On Earth," a collection of mostly true stories;, and "Yes Ma'am, You're Right: The Essential Rules For Living With A Woman."  Mark's day job is as a freelance writer and communications and marketing consultant. Mark has traveled around the world twice but has never been to Burlington, Vermont. He does not eat beets or chicken livers, and he has never read "Gone With The Wind." He is the only person he knows who was once a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. He is a fifth generation Atlantan,  the father of three, and the grandfather of five. All offspring are demonstrably perfect. He lives in Smyrna with his wife Rebecca (aka The Goddess) and two dogs: Ferguson, an arrogant Scottish terrier; and, Lola, a Siberian husky who is still trying to figure out what the hell she's doing in Cobb County.