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
by David Waters, Commercial Appeal
When the Rev. Fred Morton began his ministry in Whitehaven, in the midst of the racial tensions of early 1968, he thought he was ready for the challenge.
The Lynching Sites Project of Memphis received the Zion Preservation Award from the Zion Community Project at its Tenth Annual Fundraising Benefit on November 1 st at Rhodes College. The Zion Project manages the conservation of the historic Zion Cemetery, burial grounds for over 30,000 African-Americans. The organization noted LSP’s commitment to recognize victims of racial terror and its strong desire for community inclusion. Board President Laura Gettys, along with Project Leader Leonard Blakely, who substituted for VP Iris Love-Scott accepted the honor on behalf of LSP.
One hundred and twenty five years ago, on the night of July 22, 1893, law and order broke down in Memphis. A mob of several thousand attacked the jail; meeting almost no resistance from officers, they seized Lee Walker, a young African American man. The mob dragged Walker from his cell, beating him, stabbing him, and stripping him of his clothing. They took Walker north on Front Street to an alley between Sycamore and Mill Streets, where they hanged him from a telegraph pole. Once Walker was dead, many spectators left, but some mob members cut the body down, burned it, and mutilated it
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.
The United States Senate’s three black members introduced a bill on Friday that would make lynching a federal hate crime.
The move came more than two weeks after a similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. Nearly 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in Congress from 1882 to 1986. None were approved.
“Charlie Morris and Tom Carlson, Companions in Truth” by John Ashworth, Executive Director, Lynching Sites Project of Memphis
I am often emotionally pulled in many directions as I do the work of remembrance of the victims of our nation’s tortured domestic terrorism campaign from the end of the Civil War until about 1960. Along the way, all the people I work with in this effort leave a lasting impression that gets buried in my subconscious. Until that memory gets jarred in some significant way that memory remains among all the rest without much thought.