MLK Dedication in Bordeaux

photo by by Vanessa MerinaMLK Dedication in Bordeaux

by Vanessa Merina, Bordeaux

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
- Martin Luther King, Jr. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s contributions and to underscore French-American relations, the city of Bordeaux recently dedicated part of its waterfront to MLK.
I arrived the afternoon of the dedication just as a crowd was gathering along the river. I recognized the mayor, Alain Juppé, along with folks from the American consulate. There were also a number of community leaders as well as people who’d wandered up, drawn by the activity.
At the appointed time, we all walked along the river and took our places beside several small tents. The ceremony was simple and moving: students from a nearby high school read parts of King’s speeches and both the mayor and a consulate rep spoke, underscoring King’s work toward equality, civil rights and diversity.
I saw a guy handing out flyers and took one. It featured a photo from March 25, 1965 of civil rights marchers massing together on the fifth day of a voter registration march. They were readying, the caption said, to start a three-mile walk to Montgomery, Alabama.
As the speakers continued, I closed my eyes and listened. I’d moved to France in January with a 1-year renewable visitor visa after my boyfriend got a postdoc in medical physics. Since arriving, I’d struggled with the competing pulls of France and home and the challenges of living in a new culture.
The more I listened, however, the more I began to feel at peace with our decision to uproot. Here was a remarkable individual—MLK—whose work was valued by two differing cultures. King, who’d gathered together a range of people to live together as brothers. King, who celebrated diversity in the midst of working toward a common good.
After the ceremony, I walked home through the streets of Bordeaux as though seeing them for the first time: their chatting residents, their crowded bakeries and shops. It was a quiet shift—to finally feel welcomed as part of my adopted city.

MLK Dedication in Bordeaux

Robin Wade