December 23, 2020
From the President of the Board of the Lynching Sites Project:
In his 1962 bestseller The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin wrote that “whatever white people do not know about (Black people) reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.”
Over the past eighteen months, in several significant ways, I have continued to learn about the culture of white privilege and superiority in which I was raised and have lived all my life. My Black sisters and brothers keep teaching me about this.
I have also been learning how to lead the Board of a non-profit organization. I had plenty of experience being a church’s paid pastor. But I was pretty inexperienced when it came to presiding over a volunteer board of peers.
In addition to everything else I have learned, I now know just how much my colleagues and so many others are devoted to the mission and vision of the Lynching Sites Project. They’ve shown me how to learn in ways I did not even know I didn’t know.
Despite the multiple pandemics we have been facing over the past year, 2020 has been a season of growth for LSP in several ways. In January and February, we hosted several Courageous Conversations. These were informal, in-person, interracial dialogues. When COVID-19 closed those sessions down, we switched to a virtual format, offering seminar presentations, ably hosted by our Executive Director, John Ashworth.
In an effort to build strategically for the future, the LSP Board went to work on its own structure. We elected a total of five new members this year, bringing our total to thirteen. And when John decided to step away at the end of September from his old role, the Board hired the Rev. Dr. Kevin A. Brooks as our new Executive Director.
With his experience in education, fundraising, and social justice work, Kevin is poised to take us into the new year and beyond. I am thrilled Kevin is the one leading LSP forward. You will be hearing much more from him in the weeks to come.
At the end of this month, I will step away from the role of President of the Board of the Lynching Sites Project, allowing for new leadership. It has been an honor and privilege to serve in this way. I will continue to serve as a Board member through 2021.
I hope to keep serving LSP in other ways after that. I do not yet know how. I do know that, for me, serving needs to be about a calling.
Frederick Buechner once wrote, "Your calling is where your own greatest joy intersects with the needs of the world." That wisdom continues to be true for me. How is it true for you? In 2021, how might you be called to be part of the work, the vision, and the mission of the Lynching Sites Project of Memphis? How might you join us - for the first time...or in brand new ways?
There were a few, simple questions the great Howard Thurman regularly posed, encouraging people into deeper reflection on their own sense of call. First, the identity question: Who are you...really? Then, the purpose or values questions: What do you want? What are you for? Finally, the discernment question: How will you get it?
In the weeks and months ahead, our new Executive Director, Kevin Brooks, will be creating opportunities for all of us to grapple with those questions and more. We will keep learning about the history of racial terror and how we might help change that terrible narrative. We will also seek to learn and to know what we do not yet know.
Watch your LSP newsletters for information about our community gatherings. Listen for ways in which you are now being called to support LSP and to serve. Remembering the image Ida B. Wells gave us, join us as we continue to shine the light of truth upon the racial wrongs that need to be made right, in 2021 and beyond.
(The Rev.) Thomas A. Momberg