Sometimes I am a person who feels that she walks in the dark a lot because I do not always feel that I fit into my social context. Another way of saying this is that I have to put extra effort into feeling “at home” in my day to day life. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of home in my abode, where I gratefully live in comfort and peace. But I get nostalgic for what has probably become a fantasy: A place where my soul is at home and I fit in and I feel thoroughly understood, accepted, loved and relaxed.

Where is your soul at home?

Yesterday evening, I had the honor of being a participant observer at an interfaith service, A Journey of Remembrance and Reconciliation, which was a community’s response to making a home for the lynching monument for Dekalb County, Georgia.

This was the beginning for Dekalb County, Georgia of a six-month plan to bring our monument home from the Equal Justice Museum and Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. (See below for more background). The interfaith service which launches a series of events, was a clear marker of reconciliation and included a prayer of apology. The attendees were invited to consider a set of commitments towards eliminating racial prejudice. You can view a video of this remarkable event here: https://video.ibm.com/recorded/123960705

We at Compassionate Atlanta are deeply proud to do this very difficult work of acknowledging what is a deeply painful history and intentionally insert ourselves in the work of healing our community. We consider it our compassionate responsiblity. The service was beautiful and emotional. Most of the Board of Directors of Compassionate Atlanta have been involved in this long and arduous process and were up front and center at this event, alongside deeply respected collaborators. The event’s  location was particularly significant. It was held in the old Dekalb County courthouse which now houses the Dekalb History Center Museum. This is the courthouse in which justice would have been dispensed at the times of those lynchings. Today, more than half of Dekalb County’s 756,000 residents are African-American. DeKalb county is just the second government entity in Georgia to acknowledge the lynchings which occurred within its borders.

Why is this important to you?

If we do not deal with the shadow aspects of our past, as individuals and as a community, we are unable to allow the fruit of compassion to yield to the benefit of ourselves and our communities.  Also, we never get to experience the fullness of what “home” means as white people, or black people, or immigrants, or indigenous Americans.

Can a black person be at “home” in this county, knowing that his ancestor was lynched on this very soil? Can a white person feel at “home” in this county knowing that her ancestor gained privilege through violence? Can a New American call this place “home” knowing that others, who have been on this land long before they sought refuge here lost their lives to senseless and illegal deaths because of the color of their skin?

No. None of us can have peace because creating “home” requires us to enter into this journey that shows us our interconnectedness.

Do we deal with our shadow flawlessly? No.

Is it scary? Sometimes.

Are we going to make mistakes along the way? For sure.

Is it necessary? Absolutely.

Is it worth it? Hell, yes!

This Journey of Remembrance and Reconciliation is the greatest act of compassion this county has engaged in to ensure that its land is “home” to those who live here.

I ask you to consider this question, Considering your role in your community: What are you doing to repair your community so it is home to others as well as you?

Join us  at our annual gathering on October 6, called “Home.” Come and explore the meaning of home together. Hear riveting stories of home that will expand your consciousness about what home means to people who may be similar to you, or vastly different.

Please join us: https://homeca.eventbrite.com

Peace on this journey that we are all on and I look forward to seeing you at our event.

Pssstttt…. this is really hard work. Be gentle with yourself.

Background:

In Montgomery, Alabama, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice honors the lives of over 4,400 people who were lynched in the United States. The memorial was created by the Equal Justice Initiative, the brainchild of famed death penalty attorney, Bryan Stevenson. According to the EJI, 592 Georgians were lynched between 1877 and 1950. And these are only the known and reported lynchings. The EJI asks communities to engage in the process of receiving and installing the museum monuments in the communities where lynchings took place.

You can find out more about this multi-step process here:

https://www.ajc.com/news/local/dekalb-journey-remembrance-begins-with-interfaith-service/Jdatgw4ekJK1QStgbi2SIM/

The three incidents in Dekalb County are reported were:

  • Reuben Hudson of Covington, Ga. The crime took place in Redan on July 27, 1887. He was accused of attempted rape of a white woman, Mrs. Bush.
  • It least two to five unnamed victims were lynched on April 3, 1892 for alleged assault on a white girl in the Lithonia quarry area.
  • Porter Turner, a taxi driver, was lynched in the Druid Hills area. The crime took place on August 1945 for accepting white women as fares.

 

Iyabo Onipede 
Compassion Cultivator/Co-Director
Compassionate Atlanta

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