At the end of February, I joined a group of 15+ friends and fellow pilgrims from Colorado, Georgia, Tennessee and Michigan for a five-day, whirlwind tour of important Civil Rights sites in Alabama.
Born out of a long-running gathering hosted by The Refuge, and based on the 12 steps for anti-racism work of Melvin Bray, our pilgrimage included trips to The Legacy Museum (built on the site of a former slave warehouse) and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. Both the museum and the memorial are TRULY AMAZING in different yet complementary ways. Their combined cost is only $5, but they could cost 100 times that much and they would be worth every penny. Every single American should visit them at least once in their lives, in my opinion.
Among the Civil Rights Movement-related sites we experienced were the spot where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat in 1955, the neighborhood of the 16th Street Baptist Church where four young Birmingham girls were murdered by a KKK bomb in 1963, and the bridge in Selma where voting rights marchers led by the late John Lewis were attacked by law enforcement in 1965. It’s overwhelming and sobering to say the least to see and hear and feel the legacy of slavery in our country, including the transatlantic and domestic slave trades, Reconstruction, the terror-laden era of lynching and codified racial segregation, the more recent emergence of over-incarceration, and the dehumanization and economic exploitation tying it all together.
This is a crucial part of our ongoing story and it’s time we all engage with it more deeply.