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Civil rights learning tour recap: day fivehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4918/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-fiveCivil rights learning tour recap: day fiveBy Jennifer Murch<p><em>Jennifer Murch participated in the </em><em>Just Peace Pilgrimage</em> <em>Civil Rights Learning Tour</em> <em>in April 2023. Her thoughts are broken down into </em><a href="https://jennifermurch.com/"><em>six blogs</em></a><em>, spanning all six days of the tour. Read days one and two </em><a href="/blog/4904/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-days-one-and-two">here</a><em>, day three </em><a href="/blog/4910/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-three-">here</a><em> and day four </em><a href="/blog/4913/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-four">here</a><em>.</em></p><p><em>Just Peace Pilgrimages are new group learning experiences through Mennonite Mission Network. For more information about upcoming pilgrimages, </em><a href="/serve/just%20peace%20pilgrimage">click here</a><em>.</em></p><p>We met up with our tour guide for the day: Leroy Clemons, a racial equity trainer, and the executive director of the Neshoba County Youth Coalition.<br></p><p>We started our tour in front of a church where there was a marker commemorating <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/freedomsummer-murder/">the three civil rights workers who were lynched in 1964</a> when Leroy was just two years old: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.</p><p>Standing there, he talked about growing up on the Black side of the tracks in a safe, warm community, and never being afraid. He also told us how all 39 members of the police force were members of the Klan when he was growing up. No one mentioned the lynchings of the civil rights workers when he was a child — it was too painful for the adults, he said — so he learned about it on his own when he was in the eighth grade. One of his teachers recommended a book to him and while reading the story he recognized his town and pieced things together. <br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP4/JPP4.2.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>Leroy Clemens, executive director of the Neshoba County Youth Coalition and racial equity trainer. Photo provided. <br></h4><p>He talked about how, back in the early 2000s, Neshoba County had national record high teen pregnancy numbers and how, through the formation of the youth coalition, they've dramatically slashed the numbers.</p><p>"But how?" we asked.</p><p>"We don't talk about abstinence-only or safe sex or STDs or birth control, none of that," Leroy said. "What we <em>do</em> do, is teach critical thinking skills: How's it gonna feel when you have to tell your wife that half your paycheck goes to support another woman? What are you gonna do when you can't get a job because you have a whole string of little ones to care for? Everyone makes mistakes, but the more mistakes you make, the harder they are to fix. But we tell our youth that if your mistake hasn't killed you, then we can help fix it."</p><p>"But lots of times girls find themselves in bad situations that they didn't have much choice about in the first place," someone pointed out. "How do you support girls who are dealing with things that are beyond their control?" </p><p>"Our motto is: once a member of the Neshoba Youth Coalition, always a member," Leroy said. "If someone wants to get out, we help them find a way. For girls who are in bad relationships, we ask them why they need that person? What are they getting from that relationship? Once they can think critically about their choices, they can begin to make changes."</p><p>He drove us though the business district in the Black part of town, pointing out all the stairs leading up from the road to now-empty lots where houses once had been. At the end of the street was the newly integrated elementary school he'd attended. One of the little girls he played with — he even went to her house to play, and was treated well there by her family, he said — was the daughter of one of the Klansmen involved in the boys' lynching. </p><p>"I never knew anything about what happened, so I didn't know to be afraid at school," Leroy said. "The teachers may have said things, but it just went right over my head."</p><p>"But your parents," I asked, "weren't they scared?"</p><p>"Yes, terrified, though I didn't know it at the time. I remember they asked me so many questions. I know now they were checking to find out if I was being mistreated, but back then I just thought they wanted to hear about my day."<br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP4/JPP4.3.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><h4>Photo provided.<br></h4><p>Standing in the shade of an abandoned gas station, Leroy told us that years after the movement, civil rights workers returned to Philadelphia to apologize. "We made a mistake," they said. "We asked for equality when what we should've asked for was equity." </p><p>It struck me then (and at other times during the trip) how the civil rights movement was far from perfect. People didn't know what they were doing. They messed up, misjudged and asked for the wrong thing. Demanding change and making justice —  these things are messy and imperfect. People betray each other and change their minds and give up. People lose their jobs, their homes, their lives. Looking back, the movement appears so linear and organized, almost like it was predestined, but it was anything but.  </p><p>Leroy told us the story of how the murder trial of the three lynched civil rights workers was reopened, 40 years after the event. Leroy and one of his White friends had decided to plan a commemoration of the civil rights murders, so they called a town meeting. "How do we remember this together?" they asked the people gathered.</p><p>"How about we hold a march?" one of the Black people suggested, and all the Black people in the room nodded along. And then one of the White people said, "Or we could sign a declaration saying that this will never happen again," and the Black people fell silent and the White people nodded along. No decision was made that night. After the meeting, Leroy went to his White co-leader and asked, "Why didn't you White people like the idea of a march?"</p><p>"Do you know what a march means to White people?" his friend said. "It means y'all are mad and you're coming for us and there's gonna be riots and looting! And what was so bad about signing a declaration anyway?"</p><p>"Do you know what a declaration means to Black people?" Leroy countered. "Absolutely nothing! White people have been signing and breaking declarations since forever. Words on a piece of paper don't mean anything to us!"</p><p>So, they called a second meeting. This time, there was no commemoration-planning agenda. Rather, the goal was to let the townspeople, both Black and White, tell their stories of what it was like growing up in Philadelphia. As people talked, the White people began to learn that Black people weren't angry at them — they didn't want to fight them or get back at them, and the Black people had lots of stories of the White people who had helped them — and the Black people began to learn all the ways in which the White people had also been terrorized by Klan. </p><p>The town meetings continued. The group eventually became The Philadelphia Coalition, and, along with some other events and key people<a href="https://www.betterworldbooks.com/product/detail/race-against-time-a-reporter-reopens-the-unsolved-murder-cases-of-the-civil-rights-era-9781451645132">, like the work of investigative journalist Jerry Mitchell</a>, led to the reopening of the civil rights workers' murder case. Forty-one years to the day after the lynchings, the Klansman who'd organized the murders was convicted. Leroy, who was very involved in that case, appears a number of times in the documentary (which we watched that evening as a group).<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cUfNttzqV4U" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p>Leroy told us that Mr. Killen, the Klansman who'd organized the killings and then been convicted four decades later, said he wanted the boys to be lynched right along the road close to his house so he could pass the place every day and remember it. </p><p>"We'll go to that spot," Leroy told us, "But we won't stay long. I don't like to tempt fate" — a statement which confused me until he explained that lots of Klansmen are from that area and live around there. Later, our group leader shared that on one of her first tours with Leroy back in 2018 or so, Leroy had told the group, "If you see me start to run, run with me," and only then did I begin to get an inkling of the risk he was taking.</p><p>Before we went to the murder site, Leroy took us to Mt. Zion Baptist, the church that <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/neshoba-murders-black-white/">had been burned prior to the civil rights workers' murders.</a> Standing in the yard of the church, Leroy walked us through the series of events that led up to the murders.<br></p><h4><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP4/JPP4.4.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" />Photo provided.<br></h4><p>Because Schwerner, one the civil rights workers, had spent some time working at that church, the Klan was on the lookout for him. One evening, there was a church meeting and a neighboring Black man noticed a strange Black man walking back and forth outside the church and, assuming the strange man was a guard and that Schwerner was inside, he tipped off the Klan. Schwerner wasn't inside — he'd left the area — and the strange man was just an out-of-towner who'd come for his daughter's birthday and was waiting for the meeting to wrap up inside. The Klan assembled, put up roadblocks, severely beat some of the church people and burned the church. When Schwerner returned to Mississippi not long after, he went to visit the burned church, along with Chaney and Goodman, and on their way back to Meridian, they were apprehended and killed.</p><p>That's the briefest of summaries, the best I can remember, but the version we got from Leroy was convoluted and nuanced. Like, for example, how the Black man who tipped off the Klan was a member of Mt. Zion Baptist, and how he remained an active member there for the rest of his life. How certain details of the story came from children of Klansmen and their memory of events. How the grandchildren of some of the Klansmen have married Black people.</p><p>The more Leroy talked, the more complicated the story became. There was nothing linear or clear-cut about this history, and listening to him, I felt the weight of that — heavy, unwieldy, and murky. </p><p>Leroy then took us to the spot where the boys were murdered. We clustered on the edge of the country road while Leroy stood on pine needles and recounted the details of the lynchings, details that were still being pieced together: The car chase, shootings, broken bones, dismembering of one of the bodies. The last young man running and getting shot down, playing dead, and then being buried alive. The mundane details of coordinating a middle-of-the-night mass burial. The search for the bodies, and the discovery of more than a half dozen other lynched Black bodies in the process.</p><p>He gestured down the road to his left, telling of the Klansmen who lived back that way. "Killen's brother lived down there," he said, "and in <a href="https://neshobafilm.net/">the documentary</a>  you're gonna watch, he's the one sitting in a recliner with a rifle on the table beside him. He died in that same chair last year, and no one found him for so long that his body had begun to decompose." Leroy paused, and then he said, almost gently, "He died alone. Such a terrible death."</p><p>As we were leaving the site, my younger daughter asked about the blood. Wouldn't that have been a giveaway?</p><p>"Killen came back the next morning," Leroy said, "and cleaned up the area, as well as the chains and guns which he then returned to police headquarters."</p><p style="text-align:center;">***</p><p>P.S. In <a href="https://hechingerreport.org/q-a-with-leroy-clemons-nearly-50-years-after-freedom-summer-education-is-key-to-change-in-mississippi/">a 2013 Hechinger Report interview</a>, Leroy says, "<em>Our main focus wasn't about prosecuting an 80-year-old man. It was about changing Neshoba County. It was about doing the right thing, about saying enough is enough, about speaking with one voice. This may sound crude, but some of these people will never change … it will take a few more funerals before we get to be where we need to be. There are still people who are determined that nothing will change in this city, state or country … they will go to the grave with their secrets and they will never tell, and a lot of it is out of fear. They don't want to relive those days. They have voluntary amnesia."</em></p>
Civil rights learning tour recap: day fourhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4913/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-fourCivil rights learning tour recap: day fourBy Jennifer Murch<p><em>Jennifer Murch participated in the </em><em>Just Peace Pilgrimage</em> <em>Civil Rights Learning Tour</em> <em>in April, 2023. Her thoughts are broken down into </em><a href="https://jennifermurch.com/"><em>six blogs</em></a><em>, spanning all six days of the tour. Read days one and two </em><a href="/blog/4904/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-days-one-and-two">here</a><em>. Read day three </em><a href="/blog/4910/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-three-">here</a><em>. </em></p><p><em>Just Peace Pilgrimages are new group learning experiences through Mennonite Mission Network. For more information about upcoming pilgrimages, </em><a href="/serve/just%20peace%20pilgrimage">click here</a><em>.</em></p><p>We spent Day Four touring Montgomery, Alabama, and then driving the route of the Voting Rights March, but in reverse — from Montgomery to Selma.</p><p>Our tour guide was Jake Williams. He knew <em>everything </em>— dates, names, stories: my head was spinning! — and he spoke with an enchanting poetic lyricism. I didn't write anything down (I was too intent on listening to write), but I do remember that he said regarding an abandoned town: that it "got lost" — which perfectly encapsulated that sad-grief feeling I got when visiting those once-vibrant neighborhoods.</p><h4><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP3/JPP3.1.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" />Photo credit: Rose Shenk.<br></h4><p>Everything happened in Montgomery, it seemed. Mr. Williams pointed out the place where Rosa Parks got on the bus and, a couple blocks later, where she was told to give up her seat. "The theaters had just let out," he said, indicating two old buildings on either side of the street, "and the buses were filling with movie goers." Later when we drove through the campus of Alabama State College, he pointed to the building where the civil rights workers had used the college's mimeograph machine to print 50,000 flyers alerting the Black community of the strike that very night.</p><h4><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/IMG_0247.jpeg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" />Jake Williams speaks to the group near a statue of Rosa Parks. Photo credit: Arloa Bontrager.<br></h4><p>He took us through the wealthy part of Montgomery where <a href="https://fumcmontgomery.org/">fancy churches</a> stretched for whole blocks. "We Alabamans love our churches," he said. "We live with the Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other." He showed us where the public pool was that the city had closed for five years rather than integrate it, and he pointed out a park that used to be whites-only and told us about the Black boy had been murdered for taking a shortcut through it.</p><h4><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP3/JPP3.3.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" />Court Square, Montgomery: where slave auctions were held. Photo credit: Rose Shenk.<br></h4><p>At the <a href="https://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/southern-poverty-law-center-splc/">Southern Poverty Law Center</a>, he pointed to the lone guard standing out front. "It looks like no one's guarding the place," he said, "but let me assure you, there's a whole lotta more protection than just that one guard." And at the capitol building, as he parked the van along the curb for his lecture, he said, "You'll notice no police are in sight, but they are watching me right this very minute. If I so much as go up and touch that Jefferson statue" — alluding to the recent attempts to remove it — "they will be everywhere."</p><p>The baby of sixteen children, Mr. Williams was born and raised in Lowndes County, the county between Montgomery and Selma and home of the Black Panther Movement. When the Voting Rights March took place, there were no registered Black voters in Lowndes. A twelve-year-old at the time, Mr. Williams joined the march for one day. As we drove along Route 80 heading for Selma, he kept pointing out which lane of road was the original and which one wasn't (they'd switch back and forth), and the place where the road had narrowed to a single lane and the marchers had to downsize their count to 300, as per the agreed-upon number for that stretch. </p><p>He showed us the spot where he saw Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out the sprawling ranch house set back from the road where his mother had been the housekeeper ("She had to arrive at work early so she could have breakfast on the table when the family woke up"), and he showed us the campsites where marchers slept, explaining what happened to the landowners that allowed the marchers to use their land (one was unable to purchase stock for her store, another had their bank account frozen), as well as the stories of the three murders that resulted because of the march. </p><p>"Five days, fifty-four miles, four campsites, three murders, and three repercussions," he said as we neared Selma. "That's how I describe the march. You ready for the test?"</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP3/JPP3.4.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>We briefly drove around Selma (lots of churches, and lots of damage from <a href="https://selmasun.com/news/selma-tornado-2023-as-seen-through-photos/article_2668a620-96cf-11ed-981c-f7dae9842d92.html">the recent tornado</a>), and then parked so we could walk across the Edmund Pettus bridge on the same path the marchers took.</p><p>That afternoon we drove to Mississippi and stayed at <a href="https://www.pinelakecamp.com/">Pine Lake Camp</a>, which was ridiculously gorgeous and packed with wonderful places to play and explore.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP3/JPP3.5.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>As soon as we parked, the kids raced down to the water and took off pedaling, paddling, and rowing. After so many days of driving and listening, we were all in desperate need of fresh air and open spaces.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP3/JPP3.6.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>It was just the thing.<br></p><p>P.S. After writing this post, I discovered a YouTube video of — get this — <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsPlEZUW5eM"><em>Mr. Williams giving a tour!</em></a> I haven't watched all of it yet, but I highly recommend you do (and then report back when you find my mistakes). He's wonderful.<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XsPlEZUW5eM" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p><br></p>
All are welcome at the Lord’s tablehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4914/All-are-welcome-at-the-Lords-tableAll are welcome at the Lord’s tableBy Andi Santoso<p> <span class="ms-rteStyle-Emphasis">This blog first appeared on the Mennonite Church USA <a href="https://www.mennoniteusa.org/menno-snapshots/envisioning-the-future-together-a-new-humanity-in-which-all-are-welcomed-and-invited-to-eat-together-on-the-lords-table/">website</a>. </span></p><br>
Ayni: An invitation and a visionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4916/AyniAyni: An invitation and a visionBy Sierra Ross Richer<p><em>This story is the third in a three-part series that explores a vision for the Anabaptist church from Julián Guamán, an Indigenous Mennonite author in the Ecuadorian Andes. This article first appeared in Anabaptist Climate Collaborative’s </em><a href="https://www.anabaptistclimate.org/climate-pollinator-series">The Climate Pollinator</a><em> newsletter.</em> </p><blockquote style="margin:0px 0px 0px 40px;border:none;padding:0px;"><p><span class="ms-rteStyle-Quote"><a href="/news/4905/It-starts-with-language">Read the first story</a>. <br><a href="/news/4907/choosing-community-globalized-world">Read the second story</a>.</span></p></blockquote><br><br>
Civil rights learning tour recap: day threehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4910/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-three-Civil rights learning tour recap: day threeBy Jennifer Murch<p><em>Jennifer Murch participated in the Just Peace Pilgrimage Civil Rights Learning Tour in April 2023. Her thoughts are broken down into </em><a href="https://jennifermurch.com/"><em>six blogs</em></a><em>, spanning all six days of the tour. Read days one and two </em><a href="/blog/4904/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-days-one-and-two">here</a><em>.</em></p><p>By Jennifer Murch<br></p><p>At the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also known as the Lynching Memorial, in Montgomery, I was struck by its simplicity.<br></p><p>The architecture looked industrial with its straight lines and drab colors — boring, almost. Just an outdoor pavilion with a maze of vertical, rusty-colored rectangles with the names of counties and states at the top of each, followed by the list of the names of the people who'd been lynched and the date they died.<br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.2.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /> <span style="font-size:22.4px;">We meandered through the columns reading the dates and </span>catching hints of stories: the clusters of people lynched on the same day, the family groups, the women. And then we turned the corner, and the floor began to slope downward and the boxes began to rise up.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.3.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>By the time we got to the bottom and turned the corner again, the boxes were hanging high overhead, the engraved names hard to decipher, the names of the counties now on the bottom. </p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.4.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>My son wondered to me if they were modeling the design after <a href="https://jennifermurch.com/2019/10/three-things/">the African American History museum in Washington DC</a>, in the sense that the space was changing in such a way as to make you <em>feel</em> the story — and he was exactly right: the boxes lifting up, all those people gone, leaving us behind with our heads thrown back looking up after them. Hanging boxes; hanging bodies. Talking about it to my husband later, I found myself crying.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.5.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>In the courtyard was a mound, and atop it a simple square of wood to symbolize the very public ways in which the enslaved people were humiliated and lynched. In the yard surrounding the memorial were the boxes again, this time in long rows on the ground, like caskets.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.6.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>They went on forever.<br></p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.7.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>There was also a section with plaques of the community remembrance project — markers honoring communities that have done the hard work of truth telling through the Equal Justice Initiative. </p><p>From there we took the shuttle to <a href="https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/">the Legacy Museum</a>.</p><p><img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP2/JPP2.8.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br>The way the museum was structured, visitors enter at one end and wind around through enormous rooms, everyone moving in the same direction and with no outside light to indicate where you are, what time it is, or how much more ground you need to cover. In other words, one must go through it to go through it; no skipping around. </p><p>The material in the museum was so interactive and immersive that I kind of got lost in it. At one point when I noticed I was getting hungry and was debating whether to wait until I finished to go eat, I approached a guard to ask where we were in the museum. About a third of the way through, she said. Needless to say, we broke for lunch (which meant leap frogging from guard to guard until we reached the end, got a wristband from the last guard, went to eat our lunch, and then reentered back at the beginning).</p><p>Things that stood out to me: The sound of water. Walking down a corridor lined with head sculptures of the enslaved people by Ghanian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo*. The columns of ads of people for sale. The wall filled with lynching stories, and the wall filled with shelves of gallon jars — each jar filled with soil from a different lynching site. Watching Fannie Lou Hamer's full (I think) testimony. The sound of gunshots, unrelenting. Picking up the phone and listening to prisoner after modern-day prisoner tell their story. <br></p><p>I kept thinking about how this museum compared to the African American museum in DC. They both covered a lot of the same material, and this one was a lot smaller in size, yet somehow this one felt much more intense, perhaps because the focus was on the fallout from slavery: its legacy. Yet somehow, even though the information was deeply disturbing and heavy, I didn't feel traumatized. Drained and fragile, yes, but not battered. It was one of the most engrossing, intense, and informative museum experiences I've ever had, period.</p><p>The Legacy Museum is an important place — for all of us. If you get a chance to visit, do it.</p><p>*<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pfFT1sWQLc">This 15-minute video</a> tells the origin story of the head sculptures, and here is a video about the making of the sculptures from the first photo:<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8O2ETApTLds" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div>
Civil rights learning tour recap: days one and twohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4904/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-days-one-and-twoCivil rights learning tour recap: days one and twoBy Jennifer Murch<p><em>Jennifer Murch participated in the Just Peace Pilgrimage Civil Rights Learning Tour in April 2023. Her thoughts are broken down into <a href="https://jennifermurch.com/">six blogs</a>, spanning all six days of the tour. </em></p><p>Last fall when our church arranged a civil rights learning tour through Mennonite Mission Network, our family talked about going — just the four of us living at home — but my older daughter who was living in Massachusetts at the time said she wanted to come, too, so we decided to wait until spring when a second trip was scheduled. Then, with the departure date fast approaching, my husband and I realized it was too complicated for both of us to go, so he decided to stay home to milk the cows and earn money (so I could spend it). And <em>then</em>, since there was a vacant space, my daughter-in-law decided to come along, too. <img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.1.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>So there we were: most of my family, five other people from our church, and three people from MMN headquarters: a driver, the leader, and another MMN employee who was along for the ride (and the learning).</p><p><strong>Day One</strong><br> The first night we had supper at <a href="https://casaalterna.org/about/">Casa Alterna</a>, a home where asylum seekers and US citizens live together. Two of the residents, a young couple who met and married on their way to the US, prepared our dinner of <a href="https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/255917/honduran-baleadas/">baleadas</a> and <a href="https://jennifermurch.com/2013/05/rosa-de-jamaica-tea"><em>rosa de jamaica</em> tea</a>, and then told us a bit about their story. (The young woman was from Honduras, close to the place where fish fall from the sky — seriously. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lluvia_de_peces#:~:text=The%20lluvia%20de%20peces%20%28%20lit%2cfour%20times%20in%20a%20year.">It's a thing</a>!)</p><p><strong>Day Two</strong><br> At the <a href="https://quaker.org/legacy/atlanta/index.html">Friends Meeting House</a> that serves as a worship space, short-term sanctuary for immigrants, and preschool, Anton, the friend in residence, pulled out a pin-filled world map showing where the people they serve come from.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.2.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>He took us on a tour of the building and showed us where the immigrants sleep, and the room full of second-hand clothing for them to choose from, and he filled us in on some of the history of Atlanta, including the ways in which gentrification has impacted the city — at which point my younger son asked what gentrification was. I've always been unclear about gentrification, and I'm still fuzzy about the practicalities of it, but Anton's comprehensive explanation, combined with all the driving tours and history lectures (both in Atlanta and in the other places we visited), painted a much fuller, more nuanced picture. </p><p>Here is a video of Anton talking about the work they do, if you'd like to know more:<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify" unselectable="on"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hOKYHsAZkM4" title="YouTube video player" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p>In downtown Atlanta, we walked by ICE headquarters where a long line of asylum seekers waited outside. "Rain or shine, there is always a crowd here," Anton said. He kept breaking away from us to introduce himself to the people, shaking hands, asking their names, jotting down phone numbers for them to contact. It's very hard to get asylum in Georgia, he explained. Only 10 percent of all requests in Georgia are ever granted. Other states, like Maryland and New Jersey, are much more open to immigrants.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.3.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>Outside the state capitol, he explained how Georgia law requires a social security number in order to get a driver's license, and walked us through what happens if an unlicensed person is caught driving — crippling fines, jail time, and, on the third offense, a felony charge — as well the risks and challenges of attempting to get basic medical care without a license.</p><p>And outside the unmarked <a href="https://www.freedom-university.org/home">Freedom University headquarters for undocumented students</a>, we read the words of <a href="https://www.yehimicambron.com/monuments-we-carry-the-dreams">DACA artist Yehimi Cambrón in her mural called The Dreams We Carry</a>.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.4.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>(The university has got some <a href="https://www.freedom-university.org/shop">pretty cool merch</a>, wink-wink, and you can see Junot Dias, board member for the university being interviewed on the Colbert show <a href="https://www.anisfield-wolf.org/2013/03/junot-diaz-promotes-freedom-university-on-the-colbert-report/">here</a>.)</p><p>At the Ebenezer Baptist Church, we took a few minutes to sit in the pews and listen to the recordings of Reverand Martin Luther King's speeches that were playing over the sound system.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.5.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>Being in that church was like stepping back in time.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.6.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>The space felt familiar, thanks to the photos and footage I've seen, and I could almost feel the energy of all those people who'd been there before me, yet it was so quiet, almost other-worldly.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.7.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>I got that same melancholy ache more than once during the trip: Driving through abandoned Black middle-class neighborhoods and commercial districts. Standing at the spot where the Freedom buses unloaded. Facing a water fountain in the middle of a court square where slave and cattle auctions had once been held. The weight of all those people, all that history, so heavy it was almost palpable. <img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.8.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>We visited the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial then, and Anton got yelled at by a guard for (unknowingly) entering a taped-off area and looking under a tarp-wrapped thingy that was under construction.<img src="https://assets.mennonites.org/PublishingImages/2023/JPP%20Blog%20Photos/JPP1.9.jpg" alt="" style="margin:5px;" /><br></p><p>Apparently, he got yelled at when they'd visited during the fall trip, too, but <em>that</em> time it was for baptizing people with water from the MLK reflecting pool. "But there's no sign that says you can't baptize people," he pointed out, eyes twinkling.</p><p><em>This Civil Rights Learning Tour is part of Mission Network's new program, Just Peace Pilgrimages. Start your journey today by visiting MennoniteMission.net/JustPeace.</em></p>



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