by terre lucas
“Sit down, place the headphones on. Put your hands on the diagram. Close your eyes.” -Museum Docent, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Sitting obediently, I next heard, “This your first time here? Just stay calm.” The rich tone of the speaker’s voice lulled me into believing that I was ready for what was next; more importantly, that I was not alone. He repeated the phrase a couple of times. Then it started, amidst the murmurs, I clearly heard someone say, “Hey, you don’t belong here!” Things escalated quickly. People were all around me (thank you sound surround), or so it seemed. I could almost feel the hatred attaching itself to the back of my neck, extending upwards, saturating my scalp and extending to the tips of each strand of my hair. Determined to keep my eyes closed and my hands on the diagram, I strengthened my spine and settled in for what would come next.
What came next shocked even me: I broke. The combination of the sound surround and the loss of sight proved to be too much for me. Within seconds, I flung the headset to the counter and opened my eyes, a single hot tear rolled down my cheek. Ashamed, I rose to my feet. The docent came over, “Are you alright … don’t you want to finish?” Inside I yelled, Yes, yes I do want to finish!” However, my tears began to flow as I quietly said, “I will. I just need to step away for a second.”
Our eyes met and she knew I would not be back. Handing me a tissue she said, “Let me take you where I take the rest of my people who are touched in this way.” She sat me in a single corner seat in the last row of a theater; I don’t even know what was playing. Between my silent weeping, I noticed a quote on the back of the seat in front of me.
“If a man hasn’t found something worth dying for, he isn’t fit to live.” -Dr. Martin Luther King
With an even deeper appreciation for, though nothing compared to the actual experience of, those who’d gone before me, the crying ceased.
Day 3: Lament
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was a dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses, and said, “Go worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.” But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”
-Exodus 10: 21 – 29
Ah, you who wish for the day of the Lord!
Why should you want the day of the Lord?
It shall be darkness, not light!
As if someone fled from a Lion
And was met by a bear;
or went indoors, and rested a hand against the wall
and was bitten by a snake!
Surely the day of the Lord shall be not light, but darkness,
blackest night without a glimmer.
I loathe, I spurn your festivals,
I am not appeased by your solemn assemblies.
If you offer Me burnt offerings – or your meal offerings -
I will not accept them;
I will pay no heed to your gifts of fatlings.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
- Amos 5:18 – 24
“I must remind you that starving a child is violence. Neglecting school children is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working man is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.”
- Corretta Scott King
The events that took place in Birmingham in 1963 are among the darkest in American history. Four girls killed by bombs while preparing for worship in their sanctuary. Children and teens attacked by police, dogs, and firefighters while demonstrating in a park… all for the sake of maintaining the status quo, maintaining the isolation of whites and subjugation of blacks.
In this dark hour, we are reminded of the darkness thrust upon Egypt in their refusal to release the Israelites from slavery. Moses’ persistence is reminiscent of the continued efforts for racial equity in our country. As Moses’ movement had its dark moments, so too do the movements in our own lives.
In the experience of darkness we also remember the cross and the darkness that covered the earth when Jesus was killed in solidarity with all who die at the hands of their oppressors. On this day, in remembrance of the children who were injured and killed for the sake of liberation, lament may be the only response.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! Tremble! Tremble!
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
…Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
O sometimes it causes me to tremble! tremble! tremble!
Were you there when the sun refused to shine?
By Rev. Dr. Leonard Jarvis
Earlier today during the second stage of our Deep South Pilgrimage we were fortunate to visit the campus of Tuskegee University and observe the statue of Booker T. Washington. The statue is known as the Lifting The Veil Of Ignorance. The monument pays tribute to a man who was deeply committed to lifting the minds of Black People whom were victims of slavery, the cruelest, vilest act ever thrust upon a people. Booker T. Washington saw the potential and promise in his brothers and sisters. He sought to make this potential and promise a reality enabling them to enter the mainstream while making important contributions. Since this Pilgrimage is also a spiritual journey, we can venture to say Booker T. Washington was mirroring the image of Jesus. After mankind was abused by sin, He saw our potential and promise by dying on Calvary; thus, lifting us from sin and shame.
Day 2: Perseverance
Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.” … “I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery…”
- Exodus 5: 22 – 6: 1, 6: 5 – 6
…And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was around him… After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
- John 13: 2b – 5, 12 – 14
“When I marched in Selma… my feet were praying.”
- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
(Jewish Scholar who marched alongside Dr. King in Selma)
We return to the road today and set our feet on sacred ground. Like Moses who does not achieve quick success in his journey toward liberation, we remember the hard and long fought battles for emancipation, voting rights, integration, and equality… Why did you ever send me? They are sure to have wondered. And yet we know that God did indeed send them, as God is indeed sending us. Despite perceived setbacks and challenges, God’s call of liberation perseveres.
On this second day, the commitment required of those who have gone before us becomes painfully real. Today we encounter the perseverance of racial hate that isolated white bodies and subjugated black bodies. And yet, we also encounter the perseverance of God’s liberating work in the world. The ground we walk today, in many ways, has been the clashing point of the perseverance of evil and the perseverance of love/liberation in our world.
In these cosmic and yet very human confrontations of our past (Tuskegee, Selma, Birmingham, etc.) we have witnessed society sustain its norms. In other words, those whom society was set up to benefit maintain power and are willing to do whatever it takes to uphold that power. In the Civil Rights Movement, that looked like white folks becoming more and more insulated from the daily subjugation of people of color. We have witnessed a symptom of the same problem erupt in our city this year as people of color took to the streets after the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. White insulation enabled the shock and surprise at the pain on display in the streets of uptown. Black subjugation needed no explanation for the demonstrators; in fact, many wondered how it had been suppressed for so long. And as our culture maintained (and maintains) a certain social order, our scripture and the call for something counter-cultural perseveres in the lives and the embodied prayers of the faithful.
Our journey today transcends time as we literally walk in the steps of those who marched before. It also fully engages our bodies as we give life, breath, and movement to both our pain and our prayers. We stand in tent cities where the displaced have lived. We walk across the bridge where certain bodies were beaten while other bodies delivered the blows. Today we, like those who have gone before, will live and breathe and move… and pray together.
Will we persevere? Will we embody our faith here in this moment and in all those that will follow after this sacred journey?
Day 1 Confession
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go?” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors! Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, “You shall no longer make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”
-Exodus 5: 1-9
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!...
-Genesis 4: 8 – 10
Today we embark on a sacred journey, bound together by our Creator and a common vocation of working to bring Shalom into our world. As we prepare for what our minds, hearts, and bodies will encounter today we remember the plight of Moses who went to Pharaoh and demanded that he liberate the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. After this first encounter between Moses and Pharaoh, the people experience no relief, only more brutal work and scrutiny from taskmasters. In our own country, we recognize and remember the ways in which scrutiny, judgment, and brutality have increased as oppressed, enslaved, and marginalized people have fought for justice. The story is as old as Hebrew scripture and yet as fresh as yesterday’s Facebook feed. Standing in the tension of past and present we often ask ourselves: How could this be?
As spiritual pilgrims we are attune to what is in the ground as we move our feet – step by step – from holy place to holy place. Standing on the same dirt, looking at the same trees, remembering those who have gone before us, certainly we experience the words of God spoken to Cain: “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out …from the ground!”
Marking the beginning of this spiritual journey, consider the following as a jumping off point for your own personal reflection.
Which words, images, or feelings do you resonate with in these pieces of scripture? Which make you uncomfortable?
What do you know of blood crying out from the ground?
How did this happen? How is this possible? How could this be? How did we get here as a people? How did you get here as an individual? What were the forces at play in your own history that led you to where you are today with your own racial awareness?
6:00 AM Depart from MPBC
10:45 – 11:25 AM Lunch
Subway | 250 Park Ave. W., NW | 0.2 mi
BajaFresh | 250 Park Ave. W., NW | 0.2 mi
Max’s Pizzeria | 300 Marietta St., NW | 0.3 mi
Atlanta Breakfast Club | 249 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. | 0.2 mi
11:30 – 1:00 PM National Center for Civil & Human Rights
100 Ivan Allen Blvd., NW
With exhibits that employ images, words, and sounds to help us remember our past, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights connects American civil rights movements to global human rights initiatives. We can expect to see Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement, The Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, and Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement.
1:30 – 3:30 PM King Center: A National Historic Site
450 Auburn Ave. NE
During our two hours here, you are invited to visit the Historic Ebeneezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized and later ordained at 19 years old. In 1960, MLK, Jr. was named co-pastor of the church with his father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. (a.k.a. Daddy King), a title he held until his death in 1968.
The Birth Home of MLK, Jr. is also a part of this National Historic Site. This is the home in which MLK, Jr. was born and lived the first 12 years of his life.
The Behold Monument sits in the International World Peace Rose Garden, which is also a part of this Historic Site. The sculpture was dedicated by Mrs. Corretta Scott King as a tribute to her late husband in 1990. The sculptor, Patrick Morelli, was inspired by the African ritual of lifting a newborn child to the heavens and reciting the words, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself.” He felt that King’s demonstrations of both moral courage and brotherly dignity in the midst of threats, insults, and ultimately death were reflected in this piece.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Corretta Scott King Crypt:
After his assassination in 1968, King’s body was brought back to Atlanta and placed in South-View Cemetery, which was founded by nine former slaves who were barred from white-only cemeteries. It is now the oldest not-for profit, African-American owned corporation in our country. Mrs. King opened the MLK, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in the basement of their home in June of 1968. In 1970, she had his body moved to a new tomb on a lot cleared east of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he had preached. The tomb is faced with Georgia marble, as a nod to King’s southern roots.
Over the years, the tomb has been changed as different quotations from King’s legacy have been incorporated into the monument. In 1977 an eternal flame was added to symbolize the continuing effort to realize King’s dream of “Beloved Community” which is also recognized as shalom: wholeness, justice, peace, and equality for all of humankind. In 2006, Corretta Scott King died and was reunited with her husband in her final resting place after nearly 40 years of separation. On her tomb, the following scripture from Corinthians is engraved: “And now abide Faith, Hope, Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.”
3:30 PM Board the Bus
Time change. Set clocks back 1 hour.
4:45 – 5:30 PM Driving Tour of Tuskegee
Tuskegee, the home place of George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, was founded in 1833, after the Creek Native American tribes were removed and displaced to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. It was soon named county seat of Macon County, Alabama. Before the Civil War, the area was mostly used as a cotton plantation, dependent upon the free labor of African-American slaves. After the Civil War, many freedmen continued to work on plantations in the rural area. In 1881 the Tuskegee Normal School (Now Tuskegee University, an Historically Black College) was founded and it’s director, Booker T. Washington developed a national reputation and network to support the education of freedmen and their children. With the goals of training teachers for the segregated school system and training freedmen for self-sufficiency, Tuskegee soon became a national symbol that African Americans could succeed when given the opportunity.
From 1932 to 1972, the school was also the site of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study which was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service. The study violated a number of ethical norms related to healthcare and participants who are involved in clinical studies, including providers failing to inform patients that they were infected with syphilis, failing to explain treatment options after those became approved, and failed to obtain patient consent. This led to radical reform of U.S. law regarding such studies.
The famous Tuskegee Airmen were also trained at Tuskegee University and Morton Airfield. Designated in 1939 as one of the few places where African-Americans could be trained as civilian pilots, Tuskegee’s reputation for training some of our nations best pilots was given a special boost when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt took to the skies with a black flight instructor and publically stated that she enjoyed the experience. Over 992 Army Air Corps pilots were trained in Tuskegee, but the Airmen title has come to include 17,000 support personnel including mechanics, cooks, electricians, and instructors who all had their hand in the making of this radical success. The pilots were excellent at shooting down enemy aircraft and built an incredible reputation as escorts, never losing a bomber.
5:30 PM Depart for Montgomery
6:30 – 8:00 PM Martha’s Restaurant
Martha Hawkins was the 10th of 12 children in her family. Although they never had much money, Martha’s mother always found a way to turn some home-grown vegetables into a delicious meal that sustained not only her own family but anyone who was hungry. Despite her economic situation and the onset of a severe mental illness, Martha pursued her dream, stepped out on faith, and opened a restaurant. Employing the values and skills that her mother instilled in her, Martha’s restaurant grew to become nationally known as a fixture in the culinary life of Montgomery. Martha only hires folks who are down on their luck, just as she was when she trusted in God to turn her life around. Martha has proven many times that keeping the faith makes the difference between failure and success.
8:15 PM Check In at Courtyard by Marriott
The object of pilgrimage is not rest and recreation – to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life. Nothing matters now but this adventure.
-Huston Smith, (Foreword in, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seekers Guide to Making Travel Sacred)
A pilgrimage is a journey of sacred and spiritual significance, often involving travel to a holy site. In the Christian tradition, pilgrimages often included sites from Jesus’ life, including those where he was born and crucified.
While we are not traveling abroad or visiting sites where Jesus once stood; we will certainly be standing on holy ground. As we take our bodies into these historic spaces that transcend time our prayer is that we may be remember all those who have gone before us. In partnership with one another, may we also receive a shared calling and a spiritual awakening.
We will soon discover that this trip is neither designed for recreation, nor rest. Instead the journey that we embark upon today is one of great discomfort and unrest. We, the pilgrims, do not know what God has in store for us; but we can rest assured that we have been called here to walk this road and share this journey together.
May God be with us all along the way.
May 22 - 26, 2017
The week of May 22-26 pilgrims from Myers Park Baptist, Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church, and the greater Charlotte community will journey together through the Deep South, visiting museums, memorials, and other significant places of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life.
The pilgrimage is the culmination of a year-long series entitled “Awakening to Racial Injustice,” attended by members of both congregations and the broader community. While the Awakening to Racial Injustice series has been going on, our city has experienced significant unrest, as we’ve struggled to come to terms with the racial realities of our city. The untimely and unnecessary deaths of Justin Carr and Keith Scott have been ever present in our minds as we have engaged in this season of learning and growing together. As part of this learning, we've examined national and local data, historical exclusion, and mass incarceration (to name a few). We have learned definitions of race, and how race functions in our society. We learned how U.S. policies can benefit some demographics while harming others. Environmental racism, implicit bias, and white privilege were other topics presented by professionals ranging from community organizers, to religious leaders, to university professors. We established small groups, called “covenant groups,” to encourage conversation across lines of difference. Most importantly, we've been awakened to the systemic oppression that many of our sisters and brothers encounter each day.
As we walk in the footsteps of the Civil Rights Movement, our hope is to learn together, sing together, pray together, and return together as a diverse and yet unified group that is renewed in our commitment to racial justice. Together, we will remember our past and forge a new way forward, together.
Throughout our journey, we will post stories from the road on this site. Subscribe below and stay tuned for more updates and pictures. You can also follow us on social media using the hashtags #AwakenDeepSouth and #DeepSouthPilgrim. Updates will also be posted to our Facebook account @Myers Park Baptist.
Looking forward to sharing the journey with you!
The Awakening Series seeks to engage the intersections of culture and faith, particularly around areas of injustice and moral responsibility. Through faith formation opportunities that address issues of our daily lives, we are working to create shalom (wholeness, equity, justice, and peace) for all.