Friday, April 24, 2015

Flying on a jet plane...

This week Matt and I left our littles at home with the grandparents to head to the South to do a pilgrimage of civil rights places. Matt has studied a great deal about the civil rights struggle, especially related to its tenets of non-violence, and the way that many of those involved in the movement were fueled and sustained by their faith practice. We knew going into this experience that this week would be intense and emotional. Update: it has been.

We are on Day 4 of our journey, and it's safe to say I've shed tears every day so far. The experiences of these ordinary people calling on the powers that be for change has been inspiring, heartbreaking, challenging, devastating and hopeful. And you know, I'm a crier, so tears is the theme.

We've packed it in (not shocking: have you met my husband before?! Plans for days.), so I'll start with our first day and hope to post more of the other days this week.

Getting ready to fly! Multiple hours on a plane with NO children? And no one to email, call, text or fill in the blank with some kind of responsibility? The BEST. (Thanks grandparents!)
The first day we arrived in Atlanta, and began driving to Montgomery, Alabama. The sky was incredible -heavy with clouds that spread out like a canopy over us.
Of course, in between the intensity of seeing such violent places, Matt needed some Southern BBQ, which lucky for him is in abundance. So on Monday night we stopped for this action:

(Note: that is a single serving, y'all)

We hadn't really planned to walk around the city after eating but (see above picture of gut-busting dinner) we kind of needed a little walk after our meal, so we decided to explore.

Right down the street from where we ate we ran into this marker, which details the slave trade that went through the city of Montgomery. We were standing at the spot where slaves were let off of boats, to be paraded up the street (aptly name Commerce) to be sold at Court Square. Chilling to be standing there, on a balmy night, imagining the bodies of human beings stolen from Africa disembarking from their long, horrific voyage, only to be marched up the street as a piece of property.

These historic markers are all over the place, but the vast majority of the older ones mark events in the Civil War or the time leading up to the Civil War. The below sign, which details the Slave Trade was only recently put up by the Equal Justice Initiative. I think they are kind of brilliant; to me their signs are an artistic intervention. Using the same framework as all of the historic signs (shape, font, etc) but including the parts of history that in the past were not named, the signs and their content are given equal weight and importance.
The building below, which houses the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization which works towards civil rights efforts, used to be the warehouse where slaves were kept until they were sold to owners.
As we walked up Commerce, we came to the place where Rosa Parks got on the bus the night that she ended up sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott after refusing to move out of her seat for a white passenger.
The bus stop happens to be the same square where slaves were bought and sold, which also happens to be in full view and right down the street from the State Capitol building.
This is the 50th Anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery (which was a 54 mile march), and which ended with marchers walking up this street to the Capitol Building to address the governor. I loved this crosswalk, which has been painted with footprints.
Dexter Ave Baptist Church is where DR. MLK Jr was a pastor from 1954-1960, and it is only two blocks from the Capitol, midway between the Court Square where Rosa got on the bus and the Capitol building. Incredibly to me, it is in an amazing location of power right in the midst of so many government buildings. I couldn't figure out how on earth a black church could have a building there! Turns out they bought the land and built it in the sliver of time between the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction when blacks had some rights, before they were scaled back once Jim Crow laws and other restrictions began to take place.
Crazy for me to see so many monuments honoring the Confederate era!
The Capitol from Dexter Ave Church.
This monument was just added last year, and is directly across from the Confederate monument, and matches it exactly in placement, size and style.
Much of Montgomery downtown is empty, abandoned, or in a  state of being transformed.
After our walk, we headed back home to gear up for our first full day of Montgomery.

Our hopes are that this is a pilgrimage, in that it is a time to honor the history, stories, and lives of those faithful people who fought for equality and humanity. I have been astounded to think of how recently these events took place, and how much work we have yet to do. As someone who follows in the teachings of Jesus, I am simultaneously ashamed of how many "Christians" were complicit in and aiding in racist actions, even using words from the Bible to justify and condone their behavior, and also inspired by those believers who sacrificed so much to seek justice in our country. I hope to learn from their passion and sacrifice, and not to leave what I am experiencing behind.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE that the dexter ave church was built during early reconstruction. Smart. Plant a church right in the heart of the government buildings and main street. Force people to see you. Keep the stories coming.


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