I was lucky to travel to Montgomery for the opening of the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice. I was able to attend 4 of the panel discussions, the opening ceremony and the Concert for Peace and Justice. It was overwhelming and incredibly enriching.
One of my remaining impressions of the whole experience is the brilliance of the whole enterprise. Bryan Stevenson’s vision is so pure and true, and the Museum and Memorial were executed with such singularity of purpose - that it is impossible to experience them and not get the message. Slavery never ended, it merely evolved, and we live to this day with every aspect of its evolution. And we have never even attempted recovery. Much less restitution, healing or reparations.
The Memorial is overwhelming. About half way through, I felt I might not be able to take any more. Because of the way it is laid out, you are physically uncomfortable by the end. There is a lovely water wall and places to sit as you emerge from the main area of pillars, and I sat there and thought, “We can never atone for this.”
But then, Friday night, after an amazing concert with a lineup that blew us all away, Bryan Stevenson introduced the surprise guest, the gift of Love embodied, Stevie Wonder. And after standing there silently for a while, he stated that we need a Year of Atonement. I am not sure that is long enough or how to go about it.
Saturday, in the lobby, I thought I saw Anthony Ray Hinton, a man who spent 30 years on death row, for a crime he didn’t commit, and who was released 16 years after Bryan Stevenson first took his case. I just wanted to thank him for his life and story, but I started crying and couldn’t stop. He reached his arms out and held me and said “It’s going to be alright.’ What is wrong with this picture? 63 year old corporate lawyer with most every advantage in life being comforted by a man who spent 30 years on death row. Just Mercy, indeed.