EPF’s Year of Action continues with our August Pilgrimage to
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and
the National Legacy Museum in Montgomery, AL
August 9, 2019.
North Dallas EPF Chapter Convener Ron Damholt went on a pilgrimage in April to several sites significant to the Civil Rights era, including some of the sites we will visit on our late summer pilgrimage to Alabama. Below, Ron previews what some of our pilgrimage may look and feel like. Read on, and be inspired to join us, and be transformed.
In quieter moments, I find myself still gently descending a broad floor leading to the core of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which commemorates one of the true “hearts of darkness” of our country. Immense matte black rectangular blocks of corten steel, together bearing the names of over 4400 victims of lynching between 1877 and 1950, hang overhead; the constant, insistent sound of a wall of falling water resonates around me.
I pass by dozens of metal plaques bearing inscriptions. “Henry Patterson was lynched in Labelle, Florida, in 1926 for asking a white woman for a drink of water.” “Nathan Bird was lynched near Luling, Texas, in 1902, for refusing to turn his teenaged son over to a mob; his son, accused of fighting with a white boy, was also lynched.” “Calvin Kimblern was lynched by a mob of at least 3,000 people in Pueblo, Colorado, in 1900.”
On April 3, 2019, 36 parishioners from Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, TX departed on a Civil Rights tour to Alabama and Mississippi. We were led by our rector, Fr. Casey Shobe, and by Rev. Michael Waters, pastor of Joy Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dallas. And I believe it’s not an overstatement to say that our lives were about to be changed.
We traveled together for five days, visiting carefully chosen sites of historic significance: 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where protesters were schooled in principles of nonviolence, and which in September 1963 would become the site of a bombing which would take the lives of four young girls; the Montgomery home of Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, and the church Dr. King pastored; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, over which we walked in silence, two-by-two, to gain a small sense of what marchers must have anticipated as they processed toward the police blockade on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965; the park in Hayneville, Alabama where Jonathan Myrick Daniels*, an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist, was shot to death while shielding a young black girl.
Thanks largely to Rev. Waters’ own work for racial justice – and relationships he has developed along the Way – we also received the gift of personal encounters with several who have led in the struggle for justice, who have “shared in the sufferings of Christ.” Ms. Janice Kelsey Wesley, a Birmingham educator, participated in the 1963 Children’s March and was one of nearly 2000 children arrested, many having also been attacked with high-pressure hoses and police dogs. Dr. Valda Montgomery told us the work of her father, a pharmacist, in quietly organizing a massive taxi service during the crucial Montgomery bus boycott. And Ms. Joanne Bland of the Selma Interpretive Center, who by age 11 had been arrested 13 times, graphically described that “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in which she was a participant.
We also visited several important museums, including the National Legacy Museum in Montgomery, dedicated to the compelling argument that much of the prison system in the United States was shaped as an effort to extend slavery in another form, and that our present criminal justice system continues in injustice: in 2017, approximately 27% of all persons arrested were “black or African American,” while at the end of that year 476,000 prisoners were black, and 436,000 white. But the single most powerful experience of our five days for me was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, sometimes called the “Lynching Museum,” also in Montgomery, to which I referred at the start of this brief essay.
I thank God for these experiences, for Fr. Shobe leading us in prayer and worship, for quiet conversations along the way. I give thanks for Rev. Waters, part of whose calling is to lead groups such as ours, and without whom our trip would have been significantly less rich. I want to thank my fellow-travelers Bill and Peggy Kwoka, whose fine notes on our journey helped spur my memories, and filled out many details which I had lost. But most powerfully, I’m grateful to be part of a community willing to continue to struggle with being the Body of Christ in the world, and which actually strives to exist for the sake of those outside its walls, to “grow up into the full measure of Christ.”
*Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels heard Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to go to Alabama to help register people to vote. Daniels was martyred on August 20, 1965 in Hayneville, AL, when he stepped in front of a loaded shotgun to save the life of teenager Ruby Sales. Daniels is commemorated every year with a pilgrimage to the place of his murder, the jail cell which held him prior to his death, and the courthouse where his killer was exonerated. This passage from Isaiah inspired Daniels’ action. (Photo credit Bridget Reeves Tytler) . Read more in "Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama" by Charles W. Eagles or watch "The Granite Saint: The Story of Jonathan Daniels" on www.wmur.com. EPF will participate in this pilgrimage this August.
Jonathan Myrick Daniels icon hangs in the chancel at
St. Andrew’s, Birmingham, AL
LOOKING FORWARD TO
EPF’S NEXT YEAR OF ACTION EVENT!
The next stop on EPF’s 80th Anniversary Year of Action will be in Alabama. Join us August 9-10, 2019 in Montgomery for our pilgrimage to the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum (www.museumandmemorial.eji.org) followed by the annual Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the Martyrs of Alabama Pilgrimage to Hayneville, Lowndes County, Alabama, sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.
Some holy spaces have stained glass; St. Mark’s – Raleigh NC has this luminous woven tapestry as a center piece. Saxophone and piano accompanied our recessional, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" which never fails to remind me that worship is supposed to empower and embolden us to action.
This week, I worshipped at St. Mark’s, Raleigh, NC, with my collaborative lawyer friend, John Sarratt. St. Mark’s is a former EPF Peace Partner Parish with a long, steady tradition of social justice ministry. It was nice to have a chance to connect with so many people who already understand what EPF is all about! I also had the chance to attend the World Refugee Day event held in Central Park in Durham, NC with EPF PIN stalwart Donna Hicks. Topping off my time in central North Carolina was a brief visit with Ethan Vesely-Flad, who is about to take a year long sabbatical to Ghana and West Africa. Ethan has been invaluable in connecting this EPF newcomer to several social justice allies. Godspeed, Ethan, to you and your family!
Entryway to St. Mark’s peaceful columbarium, Raleigh, NC
Advocacy against drone warfare
EPF is participating in this important work — learning to advocate against drone warfare. We would like to send at least two of us to Princeton, NJ to represent Episcopalians everywhere and then to carry this advocacy forward for us. We have one committed volunteer — Allie Graham of Princeton, NJ. Are you Interested in this opportunity? Let us know and let’s see how we can make funds available to help get you there! epfactnow
Mark your calendars now to join EPF for our next Year of Action event: August 9-10 pilgrimage to Alabama and the National Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Justice and Peace in Montgomery, and the annual Jonathan Daniels and the Martyrs of Alabama Pilgrimage to Hayneville. Don’t miss this chance to participate in these transformative experiences with your EPF colleagues! We have a block of rooms at the Courtyard by Marriott, 5555 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL for the evenings of August 9 and 10. Call (334) 272-5533 and ask to speak with "sales" about the Episcopal Peace Fellowship block and they will set you up with our rate ($119/night). We’ll visit the Lynching Memorials on Friday, then participate in the Jonathan Daniels Pilgrimage on Saturday. More details (including our entry times to the Lynching Memorials) and registration coming soon, so watch this space!
Thanks to Steve France of our EPF Palestine Israel Network for this announcement:
The extreme, right-wing, Fundamentalist Christian Zionists of "Christians United for Israel" are coming July 7-9 in their thousands for their annual "Washington Summit" at the Convention Center. Their mission: place heavy constituent pressure on Congress to ramp up support for even harsher (indeed apocalyptic) policies against the Palestinians.
BUT for the first time, CUFI will be met by an unprecedented, highly organized protest from Christians, Muslims and Jews — and all who support Palestinian rights. Among Christians, we who believe that the Gospel calls on us to pursue justice for all, peace, brotherhood, and respect for the dignity of all people must not be silent. Church-based supporters of Palestinian rights must raise our voices — nonviolently, faithfully, AND BOLDLY.
The protest is being organized by Friends of Sabeel North America, with the active support of Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine. EPF-PIN has endorsed the action and has tasked DC members to help with preparations. FOSNA is urging people to register on their website (fosna.org) so as to ensure that this action, which is just the start of a long-term, national campaign to expose and oppose CUFI, will be a model of tolerance, restraint and seriousness.
Melanie’s upcoming schedule:
Looking forward, EPF will be in:
June 27-29: Washington, DC "Love God, Love Neighbor: Advocacy in Action"
June 29: 20th Annual Starvin’ for Justice Fast and Vigil, Washington, DC
June 30: Washington Episcopal Holy Land Committee
July 12-13: Big Provincial Gathering, Province V, Kalamazoo, MI
July 13: Commemoration of Sojourner Truth, Battle Creek, MI
July 14: St. Thomas, Battle Creek, MI
July 21: Grace Episcopal Church, Traverse City, MI
July 25: Chicago, IL
August 8: St. Andrew’s, Birmingham, AL
August 9-10: Commemoration of Jonathan Daniels and Martyrs of Alabama
Visit to Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and
Justice, Montgomery and Hayneville, AL
Sept. 7: Bp. Paul Jones’ feast day, St. James, Essex Junction
Sept. 27-29 Drone warfare initiative, Princeton, NJ
Oct 13-24 Palestine
Nov. 11: EPF 80th Anniversary, Providence, RI
Nov. 14-16: Borderland Ministry Summit, St. Stephen’s, Tucson, AZ
Dec. 22: National Day of Reparations (FOR) TBD
Are you near any of our planned stops and want to visit? Just shout! epfactnow
Until next time,
power to the peaceful!
Join us at the Province V Big Provincial Gathering in July!
We’d love to see you at our evening reception on Friday, July 12 at 6:00pm!
EPF is gathering a group to visit the Sojourner Truth Memorial in Battle Creek, Michigan, immediately following the Province V Big Provincial Meeting in Kalamazoo. Time is 4:00 pm on Saturday, July 13, at the corner of Division and Michigan Avenue in Battle Creek. A light picnic will follow a time of remembrance and prayers. Blessed Sojourner’s feast day is July 20. Photo credit Rob Burgess.
How can we support EPF while Melanie is on the road?