" ... Whatever I have accomplished, if there is anything, I have done it from sheer determination and because I looked up and saw the stars" - John Wesley Dobbs, 1939
Various relief quotations on the inside of the sculpture allow a visitor to create keepsake rubbings of the inspiring words of this famous civil rights leader and orator.
I dare you to stand inside this sculpture and not think about life. We all have goals. Each year we pull them out, dust them off, and see what we've achieved. One of mine is to publish my works of fiction. I compare this process to attempting to carve Mount Rushmore with a toothpick. Nevertheless, with the new year I looked around me for inspiration. Fiction writers are accustomed to imagining a situation from each of their character's perspectives, but sometimes we lose perspective when it comes to our own lives.
So today, I took a moment to be inspired by this strong, determined individual and put life back into perspective.
John Wesley Dobbs was known as the unofficial "mayor" of Auburn Avenue. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service, but is most well known for his voter registration drives that he started in 1936. He worked tirelessly to increase African American voter registration, believing that the ballot was the key to overcoming segregation. At the start, 600 African Americans were registered to vote. Just over ten years later, those numbers reached 20,000.
After his death, his legacy lived on in his six children. One of his daughters was the first person to integrate the Atlanta Public Library. Another daughter was one of the first African Americans to perform with the Metropolitan Opera Company. His grandson, Maynard Jackson Jr., won election as Atlanta's first black mayor.
If you are an aspiring writer or an aspiring anything, I'll leave you with this last poem that John Wesley Dobbs referenced in his 1939 WPA "I Saw the Stars" interview.
One ship sails East, and another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sail, and not the gale,
that tells the way we go.
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
So let's set our sails and weather these gales in the new year. Cheers!