Saturday, October 13, 2012

UU Living Legacy "Forward into the Past"

                                   Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

Our Pilgrimage ended today but in so many ways, the journey begins.  Now comes the sorting, the integrating, the decisions about next steps.  It will take me some time to share the photos and reflections of this journey.  Yesterday, we went to Money, Mississippi, the site at Bryant's Store where Emmet Till went south to visit his relatives with another cousin.  I will share more about this part of the journey when I can write about it and show you photos of the old store, falling apart completely but with a marker after all of these decades to finally show where a young man with all the promise of youth encountered the racism and violent acts of white men and women. His mother would bring his body home and let the world see what Black people have encountered for centuries.

Later, we went to the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial in Ruleville, Mississippi.  Her favorite song was "This Little Light of Mine".  Mrs. Hamer was an extraordinary woman, forthright, compassionate, one who could tell the Democratic Party what Black Mississippians endured and why they would not settle for two delegates at the Presidential National Convention.  She related what she endured in jail.  Her accomplishments were many.  There is a new plaque up in honor of her as well.  Many of the s/heroes of the Civil Rights Movement are not as well known as the male leaders.  Fannie Lou Hamer deserves to be known for the powerful and energetic leader she was.  I yearn to learn more about her and her courage and gutsy attitude.

Another stop yesterday was at Ole Miss where James Meredith applied and was accepted until they found out he was Black.  Persevering, with federal protection against an onslaught of bigotry and racism, he was admitted fifty years ago.  We heard about the changes over the decades in how Ole Miss (Oxford, Alabama) recognizes Meredith's historical actions and how the student body has changed over the years.

"What is a living legacy?"

You pass on a legacy;
there's no stopping a legacy
because it is what continues
in spite of hardship, sorrow, pain, rage.

A living legacy does not belong to the past 
for it is something beyond time and space.
It is what bubbles up like bile
and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
It is what infuses hope when hope 
seems like a remote outpost in the desert of dry bones.

A legacy is what you share with others
though they may be repulsed by the images
of a mother's son, taken from this world
for being a boy, simply being himself
in all the brightness and confidence of youth.

A legacy is a woman working hard all day
who is "sick and tired of being sick and tired";
a woman who refuses to cower, to be silenced,
to accept the unacceptable.

A legacy includes those moments of doubt,
of wondering about what you are doing;
Is this the right thing to do?  How do I know?
And praying in the morning hours 
to the God that promises never to forsake you,
and suddenly you know you are on the right path
though others will doubt your actions and motivations.
At long last, you reach the mountaintop;
you see what lies ahead and you move forward, 
no matter what the price.

A legacy sears your heart,
burns your eyes,
makes sacred your steps,
keeps you moving on.

A living legacy means
that you say "thank you"
for all you receive
through no particular merit of your own.
It means that you realize you've been given a gift;
that living is a gift that some of us can take for granted
while others struggle every single day 
to take another breath,
to feed their children,
to work till they collapse into sleep
which many people can never understand.

A living legacy calls you to surrender
what you thought you knew
for what you learn
through practicing simple listening.
And a living legacy requires much of you--
"To do justice, and to love kindness, 
To walk humbly with your God".
It means picking up the symbol of a rock
that comes from the sacred ground 
you walked upon and remember
each morning and evening those who lived and died 
that all people might be "free" some day.

You wrestle with a Living Legacy,
cradle it in your arms, 
rock it with every bit of tenderness
you can muster;
Soothing the fear and immobility
when it seems that this fragile
New Life might be snuffed out
and discarded because it seems 
so small and insignificant.

You kindle the fires of a Living Legacy
because you know deep in some part of you
that no one can ever see or reach,
you have been charged with keeping 
that Ever-New Life alive,
holding it aloft,
joining with the thousands, 
no, the millions, 
who hear the trumpets blow,
who pray at the memorials
and comfort the children
and lift up the fallen
and join with the imprisoned
and see what the beloved community
can be; what it will be someday 
as one more joins the march
and then another and another--
"til earth and heaven ring-- 
ring with the harmonies of liberty"

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