I'd spent last night catching up with law school friends in Montgomery. Today would be a busy day. Not only would I be spending the morning exploring downtown Montgomery and visiting the Equal Justice Initiative, but I would also be tracking down a park in which to run before meeting up and staying with a friend in Atlanta. I knew I didn't have that many miles to drive, but was wary of big-city traffic on the approach to Atlanta.
The morning began with a trip to the Equal Justice Initiative--one of the nation's most inspiring criminal justice and human rights non-profits. Jeanne S., who'd hosted me last night, was a law fellow at EJI.
I felt like I'd come full circle. Bryan Stevenson, EJI's founder, had been the first person I'd been inspired by in law school. On day one, he'd come to talk to us fresh first-years about the power of a law degree--how he'd graduated from Harvard Law School and began working in the Deep South to stand up for those who most needed help. Almost four years later, I went to a talk of his in Baltimore, where he discussed his powerful new memoir, Just Mercy. I spoke to him afterwards and told him about how he'd left an impression on me back in 2011. He chuckled and was glad to hear I was doing well. Now I was visiting the hub from which he had accomplished so much on behalf of so many.
Jeanne greeted me when I arrived at the office, which is in a nondescript building in downtown Montgomery.
She gave me a tour of the EJI office. I immediately noticed that EJI used its space effectively. Instead of leaving the hallway walls blank, EJI put up portraits of past clients and newspaper clippings of victories. As I walked around the building, I felt like I was on a tour of landmark moments in criminal justice history. That made sense; much of the EJI's recent work has focused on history, and specifically the history of racial injustice and slavery in this country. To that end, the EJI had, for example, created a racial injustice calendar and released a report on the 4,000 lynchings that had occurred during the Jim Crow Era. I saw this emphasis on history on every wall of the office.
Of course, I couldn't leave without seeing Jeanne's own office. It was a little messy, but that could only be a sign that she was hard at work, fighting the good fight.
Before I knew it, it was time to leave. I didn't want to take any more of Jeanne's time. And I also new I had other things to see in Montgomery before heading out to Atlanta.
Outside the EJI office, I saw more of EJI's marks. As part of its campaign to raise historical awareness of slavery and racial injustice in our country, the organization had erected signs in various parts of the city. It turned out that the area I was in had once been used as warehouses for enslaved people.
If there was one (other) thing I was here in Montgomery to see, it was Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. This is the church that MLK led, and the church from which he coordinated the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the defining catalyst events of the civil rights era. I was here to visit the mecca. It was grand.
Given that I was in downtown Montgomery, and it was beautiful out, I decided I'd continue walking around. I next proceeded for the Alabama State Capitol, which stood only a block away from Dr. King's church. The capitol steps had served as the pulpit from which MLK had ended the Selma to Montgomery march.
It was a picture-perfect day. I snapped lots of photos, including several of the Capitol building.
I also took one last glance at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. And then I was off for Atlanta!
I wasn't heading straight there though. I wanted to stop by a National Park Service site before entering the city. My plan today was to run inside Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Atlanta's northern suburbs. Specifically, I wanted to run the Kolb's Farm Loop, which would take me through meadows, creeks, and forests that had once served as a Civil War battlefield.
The run itself was neither long nor strenuous. But I was beginning to feel the accumulated fatigue of the trip. My legs felt heavy, and I took more breaks than on even some of the harder runs I'd done this trip. There were also times when I was forced to stop, such as when this stag literally stood in my path.
All along the loop, there were markers at the various locations where Union soldiers had skirmished with Confederate. I had the same thoughts I'd had when visiting other Civil War battlefields: How did soldiers even manage fighting in this terrain? How absolutely terrifying must it have been to be fighting in these woods/meadows/creeks?
It was a hot day, and I was sweaty, dehydrated mess afterwards. It was also past sunset, and I needed to make it into Atlanta and recuperate before meeting up with my high school friend, Lizzie M., who'd graciously agreed to host me despite returning from a business trip late that evening. On the recommendation of a friend from Atlanta, I parked my sweaty bum down at Porter Beer Bar in the Little Five Points neighborhood. It felt incredibly weird to be in a big--really big--city again. I indulged in a few beers (but not too many to make me tipsy) and downed a greasy burger. Burgers and me have been good friends this summer.
At around 10 p.m., Lizzie texted to say that she was almost home. I made my way over to her house. It had been a while, so we spent a good bit of time catching up. But seeing as she had another flight to catch in the morning (#consultantlife), and that I had a similarly long day of travel ahead of me tomorrow, we called it a night pretty quickly. In the span of about 12 hours, I'd seen two good friends, visited one of the most inspiring legal non-profits I know, and gotten in a solid trail run. I was content.