To continue on with my Southern food search, I entertained the idea of visiting a place called Mary Mac's Tea House. It was well-rated and I was pushed to check it out by my roommate as well. Here, I had some Southern Sweet (Iced) Tea, along with homemade macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cheesy grits, cornbread, fried okra, and fresh cinnamon buns!
Of course I had to visit the World of Coca-Cola, how could I not? I love drinking the stuff, and Atlanta is the birthplace of it! Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by a pharmacist by the name of John Pemberton. To this day, Coca-Cola’s actual recipe is a secret, and it is locked up inside the building I was in, at an exhibit called “The Vault”, which in fact is an actual vault requiring 3-factor authentication to enter, making it basically impossible to break in. I saw a mascot of the Coca-Cola bear walking around, tons of Coca-Cola advertisements and commercials from all countries and in many languages, and even got to the opportunity to sample Coca-Cola-branded beverages from all over the world at the end of the tour! The $16 to enter was money well-spent.
Uber has revolutionized the way that people travel. I’m not speaking solely from an economical perspective (yes Uber is almost always more economical than hailing a cab), however the characters I have met driving these cars have really added cultural flavor to my trips! Here in Atlanta, I learned about Atlanta hip-hop, learned a bit about Montgomery, Alabama and heard the story of a Topeka, Kansas-raised young lady who was put into foster care after the passing of her mother at a young age. She moved out to Atlanta after that and met her husband there. She overcame many obstacles in her life, got her GED, found work, and has been happily married for 10 years now! She assured me that we can do anything we want in our lives. I agreed.
This young lady (white) mentioned that she and her husband (colored) were once pulled over by a police officer, and she was asked if the gentleman next to her (her husband) was her pimp. I felt how real and delicate race relations still are in our country, not just from my experience speaking with her, but also due to arriving to Atlanta the night of a Black Lives Matter Protest.
Sunday morning, I got up to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial site. It was there that I stepped into the footsteps of young Martin. I visited Station 62 - the old Firehouse where he used to play, saw the house he was born and grew up in, passed his local bookstore, entered the Baptist Church where he was appointed minister, sat down in a pew, staring at the podium and microphone which he used to command during his motivational sermons, and all of this went down not even a century ago! Seeing a black and white photo of the first racially integrated firehouse in the US, and learning that several of the African American gentleman in the picture are still alive today and even come back into the firehouse to visit made the experience feel more real. I had such an amazing tour guide in the firehouse, who was volunteering her time to provide people like myself with a snapshot of what life was like for Martin Luther King, Jr. I learned that the white firefighters would interact with the colored children, giving them snacks, etc. even though segregation laws were in place at that time. Exiting Martin Luther King Jr.’s Baptist Church and being invited into an actual service taking place at the New Ebenezer Baptist Church just across the street from where King Jr. used to preach was powerful. Just years ago, everything from schools to churches were separated by color, and here was a colored man standing in front of me, asking me if I wanted to attend this service. If I hadn’t needed to get to the airport to catch my flight, I certainly would have taken him up on the offer. I realized that Martin Luther King Jr.’s life came to a screeching halt only 48 years ago, as I viewed the final resting place of both he and his late wife, Coretta Scott King, located in the center of a memorial peace pool just a stone’s throw away from the Church which I had just been invited into.
Outside of the New Ebenezer Church, everyone was dressed to impress for Church, and I remembered hearing a lady referring to a man as “Mr.” followed by his first name. I later heard the same thing in the airport when the woman who took my order for a slice of pizza referred me to pay at the register and that “Ms. Emma” would take care of me. I was surprised at first, and the women at the pizza shop were as well when I inquired about this subtle linguistic nuance. They both agreed that it is common to speak in this manner in Georgia, and with a bit more research I discovered that it actually isn’t that uncommon to hear this in many of the southern states as well.