Pilgrimage to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in DC

At the Dr. King Memorial in Washington, DC Photograph by Samantha Smithstein 2012 All Rights Reserved

Last weekend the boys, Shrek and I made the long awaited journey to the new Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC. Seeing family and friends was deeply important, but this was about an event, an arrival that had taken on a life of its own in my heart. I have been plugged into this venture for years, including fundraising for it with students as part of a unit on Civil Rights two years ago. I had shown the boys photographs, and nearly climbed out of the airplane when I saw it from my window during our descent into Washington on Friday.

The number of people there with us, on the atypically crisp spring like day in Washington was exhilarating. The fact that the majority were Black was exciting too.  School groups, church groups, and just group groups were there milling about, taking photos, and claiming the space. For the most part my kids were more interested in what could be climbed on, and how close you could get to the water than reading the quotes, or taking in the significance of the monument. But I didn’t care. We were there, and they knew that getting there, and witnessing this GIGANTIC BLACK LEADER-MAN (who is carved out of white stone, which is still odd to me) was our collective priority. That we shared it with one of my dearest from high school and her extended family-as planned months ago- added another layer to  the significance.

If Sam and Marcel weren’t in my life, would this have been our collective priority? Would I have felt this palpable sense of arrival, and togetherness with all of these other Civil Rights pilgrims? Would I be taking in on such a cellular level the importance that Dr. King shares the stage with Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Washington, along with the Vietnam, Korean, and World War veterans? Have other transracial parent readers here ever had that almost mythological feeling of; “returning the boy/girl king to this place of great import. See how well they  are cared for…” at these events? I’ve come to embrace it. Maybe then I can get through that tape, and just enjoy all the learning that being Sam and Marcel’s mama affords me that my life without them may very well not have had? What a gift the entire event was, and if I needed the excuse of being their Mama in this life to embrace it, so be it.

MLK Memorial, 2012. Photo by Mama C and the Boys all rights reserved


  1. That is amazing! I can’t speak to being a transracial parent -but you’re feelings make total sense to me! I thought of you when I wrote my last post about Jackson’s birthparents – the emptiness their silence leaves in me reminds me of some of your posts about Sam’s first mom.

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