Monday, February 9, 2009

Jim's musings on the eve of the Pilgramage

We five souls from Beaufort, SC (where the articles of secession were crafted) head out tomorrow for what we expect will be an emotional pilgrimage. For me, this trip is a closing of the circle that began over 50 years ago when I moved to Winston-Salem, NC to live with my grandparents. That move coincided with the Brown v. Board of Ed decision that rendered "separate but equal" schools systems unconstitutional. My grandfather, self-educated and provincial in the sense he had never traveled beyond NC and TN, taught me my first Unitarian lessons of relying on reason over orthodoxy and my first Universalist lessons to love all humankind as they have inherent worth and dignity. Paradoxically, he was a loyal Methodist, but railed against white churches for their biblical rationalization of segregation (at their best) and condoning violence against African-Americans (at their worst). He taught me to challenge clergy and the church when they were on the wrong side of love. He also challenged me to sit at the back of the bus with the black folks (and that is what he called African Americans in the mid-50s as a show of solidarity until the shackles of segregation were thrown off.

So to my maternal grandfather, John K. Pierce: this trip is dedicated to your memory and the universal truths you modeled for me at a very impressionable age. And to the early grounding you gave me to the importance of working for justice to make this world a better place.

1 comment:

  1. On the eve of this civil rights pilgrimage I gathered with women I've know for almost 30 years who live in B'ham. We sat around the dinner table talking of our experiences during the 60's, remembering where we were in our lives at that time. My two friends, sisters, were both in college. Both Baptist liberal arts schools, one in B'ham and the other in Mobile, Alabama. They are daughters of a Baptist minister in Mobile County who, at the time, was a man who understood the true sense of what it meant to be a Christian. He modeled for his daughters how to treat people no matter their skin color and these two women have lived their lives accordingly. The woman who was in college in B'ham at the time, told of how she and her student friends were told not to leave campus and go downtown B'ham or they would be expelled. And like a good liberal thinking woman, she did exactly that - took her car with classmates and headed downtown. Her memory was that she was very afraid while driving around downtown but also curious as to what was really happening between blacks and whites. She did not get expelled from college but she did gain a better sense of what was not being talked about in school or around a dinner table. The southern way has always been to not talk about it. It being, black and white relationships, even though we all grew up with either living near blacks, or working with blacks, or having a black working for our parents in our homes. The bottom line for us southern women around this dinner table last night, is that we were talking about it. And how refreshing it was for me, and hopefully everyone else around the table, to feel free to talk sbout our experiences and learn from our silent history. In my estimation silence is not golden.