Thursday, February 12, 2009

Memphis, Tennessee - Sightseeing

The Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF) held their annual meeting in Memphis, TN this year. Last year's meeting was in Salt Lake City, so this was a little more exciting. The meetings have given me a chance to check out some interesting cities that I wouldn't normally think of visiting.

Mike presents our poster at ABRF

A little research revealed that Memphis is famous for BBQ Ribs, Blues music, and Elvis Presley. Obviously I can't speak for the ribs, but it seemed to me like even the meat eaters were a little sick of BBQ by the end of the trip. A few drunken trips down Beale Street allowed us to enjoy some live blues bands, although the almost-Bourbon Street like vibe made it feel awfully touristy. And like a good tourist should, I walked through Graceland with my audio tour headphones on and learned what it was like to live like a King - at least back in Elvis' day.

Beale Street

Too much fun on Beale Street

an Elvis outift - one of many, many outfits

Memphis Bridge

Memphis is also where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The hotel where he was shot, the Lorraine Motel, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum. This is really the highlight of Memphis. Watching the videos, seeing the photographs, and reading the stories about life during segregation was eye opening and sickening. It's an uncomfortable thing to see what evil humans are capable of. It was also inspiring. The strength, dignity, and acts of courage demonstrated by those fighting the hatred was remarkable.

Civil rights is not just a skin color issue. The museum made it clear that the fight for equality is shared battle that many groups have fought or are still fighting. The night our nation elected it's first black president was also the night that California voters denied equality to gays and lesbians. Women continue to be under paid and under represented in the workforce. Genocide is still occurring. We don't learn from our own history.

The site of the National Civil Rights Musuem

Quote from Martin Luther King Jr. the day before he was killed

Lorraine Motel

The spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated

I hope people in the future will feel the same shame and discomfort when they are forced to see how discrimination, abuse, and violence against certain groups of people was allowed to continue in the early part of the 21st century. It's time to grow up and learn a lesson from the past. People that discriminate against or deny rights to other groups of people have always found themselves on the wrong side of history.