Deeper Understanding

June 8th, 2019

Our stops to The Legacy Museum and The Monument for Peace and Justice in Montgomery broke me to a heart-wrenching sorrow and deep reflection as we looked more in depth at the lynchings and deaths of thousands of innocent Black women, men, and children. At The Legacy Museum, I was astonished by the stories of slaves and their “descriptions” so they could be auctioned off, as well as the tragic stories of families being pulled apart in the name of economic and social growth for the white population. Another powerful way this museum touched me was how it could tell the stories of those who were oppressed and murdered. I think story-telling is a catalyst for inspiration and change, and this museum allowed me to not only listen, but to experience the horrific experiences of some these Black lives in our country’s history. I was directly in front of the faces, voices, and artifacts of people who denied their basic rights as children of God. I heard the stories of those wrongfully convicted and served prison time because of the bias against their skin color and people who had family members lynched and honored them where it happened. I was convicted of how I had contributed to the injustice of others by how silent I have been on our country’s topics of social justice and race.

After this museum, we then took a short drive over to the National Memorial of Peace and Justice. This is a recent addition to the monuments that have been built to honor Black lives, culture, and the Civil Rights Movement. In this sacred place there are steel, casket-sized, blocks that recognize the lives of those who were lynched. Listed on these blocks is simply the name of the county and state where a lynching occurred along with the person’s name(s), and dates it happened. This monument not only immortalizes the names and “unknown” names of the nearly 5,000 people who were killed, but also for the thousands of other undocumented lynchings. As you walk through the seemingly endless rows of blocks, the floor starts to go down as the blocks of names slowly rise over you until you are looking straight up to see them. My heart broke as started to see the endless list of names of those were lynched, hanging, in front of me and then above me. As I was reflecting on my way out, I came across rows of the same blocks that are sitting and waiting to be taken to their home counties. These can stand as a monument to never forget and embrace the evil history in this area while looking to the future toward continuing to reconcile lives in their community. Several hundred blocks still remained, waiting to be taken home. One day I hope this plot of land is empty, but one of the saddest moments on this tour, for me, was to see how many place have still refused to claim the injustice that took place in our country.

Coming into this tour, I had a few moments, figures, and phrases of speech that defined what I thought the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and the mistreatment of Black lives on American soil was. As result of my experiences on the Tour, I no longer have a brief, bulleted list, but instead a better understanding of America’s greatest shame through the stories of figures who have lived through these moments and a heart that is desperate to stop the injustices still happening today. As a white male, I am the epitome of privilege and power in America and the world. I am looking forward to helping change the hearts of others who also experience this privilege and continuing to learn more. This week I have encountered the naivety of many of the pre-conceived notions and thoughts I had not questioned before this journey. I have constantly been able to question what I was taught, told, and thought about some of these saddest, and most inspirational moments in American and human history. After this sobering experience, I have a new perspective and understanding on who Jesus was, what His love looks like, and what He has called me to do.
“We will remember..with hope because justice is a struggle.”

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