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Unfiltered: Jackie's Story

Stories of Professionals of Color at Compass

As our organization works to foster transparency, facilitate deeper conversations, and drive action toward creating a more equitable community, we’ve launched the Unfiltered series as an essential component of that mission. In this post, Family Shelter Manager Jackie Sander's shares her experiences visiting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and National Historical Park.


I sing with a national choir called GWMA (Gospel Workshop of America), and we sing gospel all over the world. Each year we travel to a state, sing and perform gospel songs for five days, and learn about the history of each place. In July 2017 I had the awesome experience of visiting the sacred Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia. I was able to tour and go inside the places where Dr. King was born, lived, worked, and worshiped. I went into the house where he was raised and sat in the church where he worshiped.

For as long as I can remember, I always had a connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By way of our church names. I was raised by a Baptist preacher like King, and our church name is Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, and Dr. King’s church was also Ebenezer Baptist Church. The first place I visited when I was in Atlanta was the Ebenezer Baptist Church and sat down in the pews. I went to Dr. King’s childhood house where he lived and played as a boy. Then I went to the museum where I saw the buggy that carried his body during the funeral procession in 1968. Then to sit with Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King at their burial site was a chilling experience as I listened to the silence of the calming water that flowed around the burial site. I could feel their presence as I sat there thanking each of them for their love for people and their faith in God. I will never forget the humble experience of looking upon such greatness.

In July of 2019 our choir went to Washington DC to sing, and that is where I had my second profound experience and touching moment of my life. On this trip I was able to stand before the Memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I spent the day visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was powerful. I decided to take a tour that evening of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. The tour guide shared some history as we rode through the park as we saw the Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial. As the tour guide pointed out: "here is the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial,” In the dark, I noticed a light shining on this big structure. As I walked toward this 30 foot tall white granite statue, tears flowed down my face. I had reached a mountain top experience. I was standing in front of one of the greatest black leaders in history. I can still remember the moment I stood in front of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memorial.

Approaching the plaza where the Stone of Hope stands, a carving of Dr. King gazes into the horizon thoughtfully. On the visible side of the Stone of Hope are the words: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” a line from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.. Visitors enter through the Mountain of Despair, moving through his struggles as they walk to freedom.

I hope that my experience will motivate others to one day visit both of these powerful sites to Dr. King. At these memorials, you can feel the presence of this influential leader who fought with love for justice and freedom for all.


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