Dismantling Racism: Our Common Struggle
- Feb 22, 2016
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We Belong to One Another: Our Common Struggle
Last week we began discussion of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. As I moved around the room, I was gratified that I heard so many voices in conversation. The passion in the room was palpable. We will continue our discussion this week after hearing thoughts from pilgrim Linda Foster. Thank you to the powerful witness of parishioners Mary Marvin Walter and Peggy Stapleton, and our friend, and fellow pilgrim, Michael Agwanda. Their offerings have been a great way to move into our time together, and share our common life.
We will have books for sale on Sunday as well.
A Reflection from Pilgrim Margaret Boone
It was a small gesture on my part, going on the Jonathan Daniels pilgrimage. I surprised myself by immediately agreeing to take part. I had always believed in the cause of civil rights but aside from being able to facilitate the hiring of one African American into an all white work place in 1968 and refusing to listen to racist jokes at cocktail parties, I had done nothing tangible to further the cause. I had read about and sympathized with the civil rights workers during the bloody days of the 1960's but I was a college student and then a newlywed with other more immediate concerns. Living in Kentucky and later Georgia, the events in Alabama and Mississippi were troubling but remote.
Quite frankly, I did not recall the name of Jonathan Daniels or the incident of his martyrdom in Hayneville, AL. Other events in the civil rights struggle were quite vivid: the violent death of the four Birmingham Sunday school girls, James Meredith trying to enroll at Ole Miss, Bull Connor and the vicious dogs and fire hoses, the Selma march across the Edmond Pettis Bridge and the murder of Viola Liuzzo, the Detroit mother of five. I had been horrified that my beloved grandfather's reaction was, "She had no business leaving her family and going down there."
I read about these things and saw them on television but they were at a remove from me. I admired the people who went south to register voters and to stand with the African Americans who were determined to secure the civil rights they had been given in the 14th and 15th Constitutional Amendments. What I did not have a true grasp of was the very real danger that all of them, black and white, faced and extent of the evil that surrounded them.
Our pilgrimage began in front of the classic white courthouse where we began to retrace the events of that fateful day and proceeded a couple of blocks away to the jail. Standing in the hot Alabama sun in front of the tiny jail where Jonathan Daniels and the others were held for the "crime" of trying to register black voters and hearing how they were mistreated during their incarceration, what I knew in my head transferred to my gut. I dreaded walking the short distance around the corner to the site of the small store where Jonathan and a priest were shot at point blank range. Jonathan died immediately and the priest was taken to Montgomery where no doctor would agree to treat him.
All I thought I had understood about the fight for Civil Rights became truly, viscerally real for me. Returning to the small, almost miniature, courthouse where the killer was tried for manslaughter and exonerated by an all white jury, we found our seats for the program and Eucharist. The crowd which included priests and bishops from throughout the Episcopal church, members of the youth group from Jonathan's home church in New Hampshire, and the now middle aged children of the African American family with whom Jonathan had lived in Selma far overflowed the seats in the courthouse and into two large tents. In an irony almost too exquisite to be believed, the sermon was given by the newly elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, a black man.