Thanks for your indulgence while I was away last week. Where was I, you ask? I joined a group of about 50 others on an inaugural “Reckoning for Truth, Trust, & Racial Justice Tour,” hosted by the Center for Economic Inclusion. I met colleagues – and made new friends - from our region and from across the country. Lissa Jones-Lofgren was our “translator,” and she set the tone by reminding all of us that: “if you’re Black, today is either the day before or the day after something went down.”
Together we walked through the streets of Montgomery, AL, toured the Legacy Museum, and the Rosa Parks Museum. We walked the path of enslaved people, from the water’s edge to the warehouses and the slave depots. We saw the “Black streets” and the “White streets” downtown. We walked through the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, learning the history of Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, and the successful march of March 21, 1965, that culminated with 25K people on the steps of Montgomery, AL capitol building. These marches became a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.
As you might imagine, so many thoughts about this transformative trip. Powerful, haunting, uncomfortable. I’ll share an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s “How Long, Not Long” speech, spoken on those capitol steps, on March 21, 1965:
Once more the method of nonviolent resistance was unsheathed from its scabbard, and once again an entire community was mobilized to confront the adversary. And again the brutality of a dying order shrieks across the land. Yet, Selma, Alabama became a shining moment in the conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it. There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger at the side of its embattled negroes…. I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” Somebody’s asking, “how long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive right-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” …. I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” - Martin Luther King Jr, March 21, 1966.
May we all feel the conviction of his later words:
It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people who would bomb a church in Birmingham, Alabama, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, ‘wait on time.’” – Martin Luther King Jr, 1966 Convocation.
Together we can walk in the footsteps of change.
See you in the trenches.
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