By Joan Gaylord

A display at the Center for Civil and Human Rights features the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (photo by George Conklin).

One wouldn’t say we “enjoyed” our visit to Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights. A more accurate response to the powerful exhibits might be “inspired” and sometimes “heart-rending.” Overall, RCC members found the visit to Atlanta’s new museum to be very worthwhile, and, as one person added, “especially for people of faith.”

The Center describes itself as “a safe space” to explore the global issues of human rights and abuses. Exhibits – which include photographs, videos, and artifacts – delve deeply into the topic, exploring many chapters throughout human history.

The scope is broad and includes America’s struggle with civil rights, of course, and also the shameful treatment of our indigenous people. It touches on the Chinese government crackdown during the Tiananmen Square riots in 1989 as well as “the glass ceiling” that keeps women from achieving their full human and civil rights.

Some of the exhibits illuminated situations unknown to many of us such as the working conditions of the Ecuadoran women who grow the flowers sold inexpensively in American grocery stores. From text and photographs, we learned about the widespread practices of wholesalers who put profits before the Ecuadoran workers’ health and safety.

“This one is a real-life issue for me,” shared RCC member Nadine Monn. As she stared at the photos, she explained that she had once lived in Ecuador and had witnessed the situation firsthand. She had seen the powerlessness of the women growers. Nadine says the experience continues to guide her purchases, adding, “People of faith have to be sure where their flowers are coming from.”

Several RCC members commented on how the deeper understanding they gleaned from their visit will inform their work. After all, we are religion communicators.

When it does, we might recall one of Dr. King’s quotes we read at the Center:

“If I can cheer someone with a word or a song,
If I can show somebody he is travelling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world overwrought,
If I can spread the message the Master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.”

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