By Jim Key
Unitarian Universalist (UU) Living Legacy Civil Rights Pilgrimage
We have visited gravesites of fallen martyrs, heard emotional
first-person accounts of the foot soldiers of Civil Rights era, and witnessed
the impact of that struggle on families of the selfless activists. I have been educated by the
museums, inspired by the music, and awed by my fellow pilgrims. Moreover, I have
lost sleep for the past six nights on how to process what I have observed on
this pilgrimage and integrate it into the work that calls us as Unitarian
Universalists to bend the moral universe towards justice.
Today we broke
bread with the good folks of Mt. Zion
United Methodist Church outside Philadelphia, MS, and heard the story of the night
the Ku Klux Klan waited for a meeting, centered on registering Black voters, to
break up. The Klan attacked some of the congregants as they were leaving the church
and then burned the church to the ground.
Three voter registration
workers, two white and one black, who had made inquiries of the church members
after the attacks, were reported missing several days later, after the Klan
members had been arrested, jailed, and released late on the evening of June 21,
1964. The bodies of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman were
discovered in an earthen dam on August 4, 1964. While the families wanted them
buried together, Mississippi segregation laws would not permit
it. We prayed and sang over the grave of James Chaney this morning.
this as backdrop we heard from Leroy Clemons, the President of the local NAACP
chapter. His comments about how Blacks, Whites, and Native Americans came
together 40 years after these horrific events to claim their history and learn
how to work together as a community, to learn from the past, were stirring. We
also heard from Hollis Watkins of Southern Echo who, as an activist from the
Freedom Summer days, is applying the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement in
building bridges to the future in economic, environmental, political, and social
justice issues. His advice: Involve the youth of our communities. Teach them the
lessons of the past, and harness their energy and creativity in our justice work.
I think I will sleep better tonight. The lessons of this day
are becoming clear. There is work to do in my community, my congregation and my
district. Now to spread the word.
Jim Key is a member of the UU Fellowship of Beaufort, and
serves as the President of the Thomas Jefferson District. He has been on the Unitarian
Universalist Living Legacy Civil
Rights Pilgrimage. A version of this story appears on Gini Courter's blog, "Just Gini," and on UUFBlog.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, August 23, 2012.
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Rev. Gordon Gibson in front of a memorial to Rev. James Reeb in Selma.
Rev. Hope Johnson (center) with young adults on the UU Living Legacy Civil Rights Pilgrimage.
The UU Living Legacy Civil Rights Pilgrimage
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