by Fran Morrison
For days the words of “We shall overcome” continued to run through my conscience. I would awake at night and the words would come forth. The tune would find its way into my brain as I went about my day. As I drove places, the visual and deep visceral memory of standing in a circle, holding hands with new friends, with our white and black voices singing in unison those empowering words at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. I will never, ever forget that experience.
Another deeply moving experience was walking the Edmund Pettus Bridge hand in hand with a Mayfield Baptist member singing and praying together. I knew that I would never come close to the courage, commitment and faith of those who walked that bridge and whom we saw and heard through pictures, films, voices, and words at each museum and memorial site while learning how so many put their lives on the line.
Now, several weeks removed from the trip, I find that I am looking through a different lens when I have opportunities to interact, engage, or even just casually pass by my brothers and sisters of color. I have a greater understanding and respect for their history. I am more aware of our systemic issues that keep racial injustices thriving. I have a yearning for more honest and sincere relationship-building opportunities. I get it, now. For a long time - I thought I was seeing, respecting & understanding - but I know now I was not even close.
Making the trip doubly hard, during the bus travels, I tried to continue reading “Waking up White” by Debby Irving. I saw myself in so many places. I was initially embarrassed to be white & angry that my parents had not talked more with me and my siblings about what was happening around us. Later in my reading, I began to feel informed and able to be more cognizant of my own racial and implicit bias - to name it and to be committed to educating myself more fully as to what that really meant. I want to move beyond my blindness and begin to consciously and intentionally be more aware of my own thoughts and action patterns around race. And I know that I will need forgiveness when I miss the mark, and encouragement coupled with relationship to begin and continue the walk.
I have such gratitude for the opportunity for this trip, its dreamers and organizers of what it might offer, the courageous eclectic pilgrims who traveled together, the sacred stories shared, the raw emotion that touched all of us, and the bonded community of faithful followers who returned to Charlotte humbled, changed, and wanting more.
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.