Earlier today, I returned from a moving Civil Rights Bus Tour with 23 folks from ORUCC and Christ the Solid Rock church on the east side. Over 5 days we visited sites in
Memphis — The Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Birmingham — the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th St. Baptist Church (where 4 young girls were killed in one of many bombings in that city in that period)
Selma — The Edmund Pettus Bridge (the scene of “Bloody Sunday” when marchers seeking the right to vote were brutally pushed back by police officers)
Montgomery — Dexter Ave Baptist Church (a church King served for a time), The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice (A memorial to lynchings in this country)
and Atlanta — Martin Luther King National Park (featuring MLK’s childhood home and church and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change)
It was a moving experience, even overwhelming at times. I was grateful to be with old and new friends to process and share the emotions. In the coming weeks, members of our group will create opportunities to share more information and stories, pictures and reflections. We’ll announce that as it unfolds. In the meantime, you can see a variety of pictures on the church’s Facebook page.
On a trip like this, it is often the little things that stand out. Amidst all the information, pictures, sites and stories, I want to share on emerging reflection of my own.
This trip highlighted the courage and grit of so many unsung heroes who gave heart and soul, body and even blood, for the right to vote, to live free, and to claim their full humanity. As I read and heard about the enormous sacrifices people made, I saw anew the amazing power, faith, and strength that emerged from generations of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and widespread discrimination. I saw a tenacity that would not be turned back; not now, not again. I saw a faith in God, a trust in brothers and sisters in the struggle, and a belief in the principles of non-violence that would not be stifled nor silenced.
I come through this week reminded that fragility is the enemy of justice. As as a white, educated, male – I have little cause to walk away from the challenges facing this country. I cannot be politically or socially fragile if I intend to be an ally of those on the margins. T. Marie King, a young African American activist our group met in Birmingham wrote a piece on Facebook last winter highlighting 7 aspects of being a white ally. Here are two of her 7 points:
#2 — This is war for many people of color and other under represented groups so stop being so shellshocked.
#5 — Just because you think you are an ally does not mean you are displaying ally behavior. Being an ally is not a badge of honor to wear like the clothes pin movement. Being an ally is being willing to stand in those difficult places publicly with those that are being harmed. You can’t tap out when it gets too hot because we don’t have that luxury to tap out from being Black. (All seven are on the ORUCC Facebook page).
I come back from this trip praying for renewed strength for us all. Renewed strength to not give up or check out in this time when our companionship alongside the marginalized is needed most. I pray that we support and encourage one another so that each of us can be a voice of sanity, trust, resistance and hope in the many hopeless places we encounter each week. This is not a time for fragility, it is not a time to let fear overwhelm us.
This Sunday, we celebrate All Saints Day. We’ll honor the saints in our lives and the saints in our Christian tradition. In our lowest moments, let us channel the energy of the saints in our lives, and the saints in our justice tradition. Let us live as they did and challenge the powers that be with a clarity of vision that has withstood every evil before us and among us. It is but one way to honor the struggle those saints endured.