By David Pendered
An interfaith chapel at the world’s busiest passenger airport is soon to be named in honor of a Civil Rights leader who has received the highest honor awarded a woman in Africa, and who’s been recognized for her work in the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Chicago movement and a lifetime of achievements in ministry and academia.
The chapel in a non-secured area of the Atrium is to receive the honorary name of Bishop Dr. Barbara Lewis King Interfaith Chapel. The recognition comes in part from King’s ministry, which a report by the National Park Service says, “has extended throughout the world.”
The proposal to name the chapel in King’s honor has lingered on the council’s table for several months. On Monday, the Atlanta City Council is slated to adopt the measure. The paper appears on a portion of the council’s agenda where papers typically are approved en masse without discussion.
The legislation was sponsored by Atlanta Councilmember Marci Collier Overstreet and signed by nine other members – Andrea Boone, Michael Julian Bond, Joyce Sheperd, Carla Smith, Dustin Hillis, Amir Farokhi Matt Westmoreland, Andre Dickens and J.P. Matzigkeit.
King was born in 1930 and was 81 when she earned a doctor of ministry from the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit. Throughout her life she served others through roles that, according to the pending legislation, included:
- Dean of community relations at Malcolm X College in Chicago, and a college instructor and dean of students at Spelman College;
- The first non-psychiatrist director of the Emory Mental Health Center headquartered in the Southside Comprehensive Health Center, in Atlanta;
- On Jan. 28, 2011, her shoes were added to the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame for her work in Dr. Martin Luther King’s Chicago movement, and are to be moved to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
This is how the National Park Service describes King’s work, according to a post on the Walk of Fame website:
- “In 2001 Dr. Barbara received the highest honor bestowed upon a woman in Africa. Through elaborate ceremonies, rituals and prayers, she became the first female to be enstooled as a Chief at Assin Nsuta, Ghana, West Africa. Her stool name is Nana Yaa Twunmwaa I. Nana means Chief, Yaa means Thursday’s child, a child with special spiritual power, special energy and special courage. Twumwaa is related to the name of Yaa Asantawaa. Yaa Asantawaa is a spiritual sister of Nana Yaa Twumwaa I and a national hero to the Ashanti people of Ghana.”
The chapel in the Atrium, one of three in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, may not be a required stopover before or after everyone’s flight. But a 2010 story in The New York Times, which an Atlanta-based writer rooted in the chapels at Atlanta’s airport, triggered reader responses with snippets that suggest the notion of airport chapels resonated for some readers:
- “Looks like ‘chapel’ means ‘Christian.’ I would be uncomfortable with that. Why is there no rabbi?” – vacciniumovatum;
- “When I think back to the times when I’ve been really stressed out in airports, the last thing I would have been concerned about was whether the chaplain-on-call was of the ‘correct’ faith.” – Jean;
- “When we travel, we all share a common humanity. For one brief moment.” – A liberal in Texas;
- “This is the kind of loving, caring work that we in the religious communities should be doing – not hounding gays or women with problem pregnancies.” – Liz;
- “As airlines and airports continually lower the amount and quality of customer service available this seems like a win-win for everyone. … I’m glad there are people who can listen, advocate and just help us all remember that we are all humans in the same world.” – Famharris.