Susan Faye Wonderland
Synod of the Trinity
It was Montgomery, AL, the week before the MLK holiday. Not a place I would have thought about for a January trip, but truly one of the more meaningful trips I have taken recently. The synod execs and synod moderators met to take in the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It was stunning, overwhelming, educational, maddening, heartbreaking and important. It taught me a piece of history that I am not sure I ever knew. And that is a big part of my takeaway.
I learned we can’t move on from that which we don’t know but which may have seen and unseen impact on pieces of our everyday.
I learned we can’t do better, or more, or differently when we have lost memory of a story or rather, haven’t known the whole story.
The Legacy Museum highlights the realities of African-Americans “from enslavement to mass incarceration” beginning with the era of slavery and moving forward. The Memorial portrays the incredible number of lynching’s that took place in our country, right up into the early/mid 1900s with several beyond that date. And, yes, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio are on the list.
I did not know the numbers.
I did not know that the movement of blacks to the north after the Civil War was for racial terrorism more than for jobs.
I did not know that at times the “legal system” handed folks over to the angry mobs who killed them, thus condoning and assisting the hate.
And I knew, but did not remember, the pain of families being separated, children from parents, when they were put on the block to be sold in places like Montgomery.
As family stories are told through the generations, I wonder what it is like to live with these stories as a part of one’s personal past? I know them now from afar and am grateful to know, but carrying them is not easy. And I wonder, how we are doing at writing new stories that do not dilute these, but add to the stories and experiences of those who carry the burden of this past? I wonder that on all sides of the history.
I believe there is something about each and all being made in the image of God that becomes an important piece of the story to share – and then to live out loud. Made in the image of God, loving neighbor as self, beyond the fears and biases that divide.
I think that’s a start, but I am still mulling… and praying.