Saturday, July 9 we began our Civil Rights Pilgrimage with ECLC youth, finding ourselves somewhere in the tension between frustration and hope. Appreciating how far the movement has come, knowing it hasn't come nearly far enough. Foot soldiers and others, like those we'll be meeting every day have done much work, but still...there is more to do.
Frustration comes from the real-time, recent deaths of Philando and Alton, and the policemen shot during what was intended to be a peaceful protest in Dallas. Saturday's inspiration came as we joined in the energy, passion, courage, strength, songs, and stories of the Reverend Calvin Woods, Myrna Carter Jackson, Myrna's son, and Myrna's granddaughter. It also comes as we follow along the locations and stories of the Freedom Riders. Since this first day there has been more.
This week, hope is in-the-flesh real. During our first days of the pilgrimage we stood at Kelly Ingram Park with hope. We heard the stories of hope. We sang the songs of hope. We dialogued in a hotel conference room with hope. We walked alongside and embraced hope. We took pictures of, and had our pictures taken with, hope. We worshiped at the 16th Street Baptist Church with hope. We even marched with hope. Hope met us in the voices of Myrna Carter Jackson and the Reverend Calvin Woods. Both Myrna and the Reverend Woods were key leaders in the demonstrations and protest marches here in Birmingham, Alabama.
Calvin stood with us just beyond a memorial of the 4 small girls killed in the Klan's 16th Street Baptist Church bombing (the first black church in Birmingham, and the meeting place for many rallies, where the children gathered for training prior to marching), and brought the word at the foot of a park sign posted in his honor.
Also on Saturday, on her 75th birthday no less, Myrna shared stories of being one of over 3,000 children who gathered at the 16th Street Baptist Church for training, then marched peacefully downtown where they were arrested. It is an ugly story of jailed children, over-filled paddy wagons, courage, fear, water hoses, dogs, and the Klan.
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