The ritual of soil collection is an integral part of our work of remembering and lamenting the great horrors of racial violence committed throughout our land and in this very county.
Lives were viciously taken without due process or legal consideration of any kind. It was a form of racial violence calculated to discount and trivialize persons of color even to the extent of desecrating the remains of the victims and denying to kin and friend the decency of burial and sacred remembrance. These victims' lives were snatched from public memory as if they never lived.
On Saturday, October 19, 2019, the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis dedicated two markers to African American victims lynched in Shelby County, Tennessee. One was killed in 1851 and the other in 1869. I have long contended that there is a straight line between the events of yesteryear and the way African Americans are treated and perceived by very powerful and influential voices today.
The name of the 1851 victim is unknown, but for purposes of this article, I refer to him as George. The 1869 victim was Wash Henley.
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
A Sermon on Luke 6:27-36
Sometimes, you just have to tear up your sermon and start all over again. That's what Traci Blackmon, a black United Church of Christ pastor said to Mike Kinman, a white Episcopal priest, the day after Michael Brown was shot and died in Ferguson, Missouri - August 9, 2014.
Since early 2016 I have attempted to encourage a spirit of leadership in the Lynching Sites Project modeled after high-flying geese, but I have never taken the time to spell that out fully. I want to do that here with some examples from the LSP story.
There are 6 character traits of high-flying geese which offer profound teaching about leadership, communion with one another, and flying well as an organization:
1. Keeping Company with the Fallen
My journey back to Memphis and ultimately the site of the lynching of Ell Persons began with some basic historical research of my family. My Great Grandfather was one of the Memphis Police City Detectives who investigated the murder of Antoinette Rappel in 1917. He was also involved with the interrogation of Ell Persons and and was one of the authorities who successfully transported him to Nashville after the forced confession. No one living in my family today ever knew about this tragic murder back in 1917 as well as the horrific lynching that subsequently occurred.