steffanie rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*Things happen in life due to one of three reasons: They happen on purpose, by accident or by Devine design.

It was on purpose that I signed a NAACP petition urging the Department of Justice to file charges against George Zimmerman for violating the civil rights of Trayvon Martin when he shot and killed Martin in February 2012 then was acquitted of criminal wrongdoing last July. As a result, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous invited me and others to the Nation’s Capital for the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington last week. But I had to decline.

As a flight attendant I have little to no control over what cities I fly to and from. And on August 28th I was scheduled to work. But what I didn’t realize until later is that I would be in Memphis; the city where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated five years after his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. The fact that I happened to be in Memphis of all places on the very day of the 50th anniversary of MLK’s momentus March on Washington where the largest celebration in his honor behind the one in the Nation’s Capital would be – I believe – was by Devine design.

I grew up in Knoxville, TN. I’ve been to Memphis countless times before. But I never had been to the National Civil Rights Museum. The site of the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated, and the boarding house overlooking the motel where convicted killer James Earl Ray rented a room to pull the trigger, were converted into the museum. And just since last fall visitors to the museum are allowed on the balcony in the very spot where King stood when he was gunned down. I stood in the exact spot. And I saw the bathroom in the boarding house from where Ray is believed to have fired the bullet that took the life of one of the world’s most prolific leaders.

No matter how many pictures I’ve seen of the motel, the room where King stayed or the balcony where he took his last breath nothing for me compares to being there myself.

If you’ve not been to the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis, it’s worth the trip and the $10 price of admission. Sure, I would’ve gone to Washington, D.C. for the celebration if I could have. But Devine intervention put me in Memphis for an experience I couldn’t have gotten any other place. And for that I am grateful.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. For questions, comments and speaking inquiries contact her at [email protected].