“We do not celebrate assassinations and killings of our prophets. Instead we find the place where they fell, we reach down into the blood, we pick up the baton and we carry it forward.”
(Rev. William Barber, co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival)
Early morning, Wednesday April 4
The Tidal Basin ringed with blossoming pink cherry blossoms
A thousand of us gather to walk silently through
These great pillars of stone, these mountains of despair
Through which you can see the rock from which is hewn
The statue of King,
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
We process up by the statue
Look out over the water to the Jefferson Memorial
Where are inscribed the words of the slave owner,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident – that all men are created equal.”
I wonder how far away it is.
I wonder how long it will take to get there.
We process in silence out to the mall, past the White House and African American Museum of History and Culture, the Capital before us. The National Council of Churches and its interfaith partners have called us together on this 50th Anniversary of King’s assassination to complete the work that he began and eradicate racism. See: http://www.unite2endracism.org. Among those gathered, seven of us from University Congregational United Church of Christ in Seattle.
One speaker after another call so eloquently, passionately and urgently for our coming together with renewed purpose to end racism now. Such a bold, audacious call, drawing forth from me what I hope is deep and long-lasting commitment to grow in wisdom and skill and power to co-create a more just society in my lifetime.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, activists and founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream illustrated so honestly from their own experience what white privilege is all about. Their speculating what their lives would have been like had they been born black was powerful. What is the commitment, discipline, persistence required of us now? Where is the courage?
The African American Museum of History and Culture was one of the most spectacular experiences in DC– we “took in” the sad history of the hundreds of years of slavery–and most notably the “slave revolts” that had happened in each of the “eras featured.” The Cultural presentations were pure joy and recognition for the many people visiting–the familiar and proud parts of the past.
Standing on the mall with the wind pushing me around after our lunch, listening to DeRay McKesson talk about quitting his job with good pay and benefits and moving to St. Louis so that he could organize on the streets of Ferguson after Michael Brown was killed by police. That combined with the images of the fire hoses and beatings of MLK and John Lewis and others made me salute their bravery and realize I and other white people could be doing so much more than we do. I mean I complain about attending yet another meeting, and there they are, putting their lives on the line.
At the close of the day, Bishop Darwin Moore of the mid-Atlantic Episcopal District of the AME Zion Church held his one year old black grandson in his arms. He pledged to him that he would work with the others here to complete the work to get to the Promised Land where all God’s children stand as equals on level, fertile ground.
Then, he looked out at us.
“It’s time to get off the mountaintop – to get off our blessed assurance – and do something for the Lord.”