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RSJD Civil Rights Pilgrimage in the South

Eight of us, affiliated with the Racism and Social Justice as Dharma Practice sangha (RSJD), recently returned from a Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama. Four are Everyday Zen practitioners – Chris & Bruce Fortin, Judy Linzer, and Bob Andrews. The Pilgrimage was an opportunity to bear witness, learn, and sit in the middle of the enormous history of known and unknown suffering.

Our Pilgrimage began in Birmingham where events such as the killing of four little girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church sparked a national outrage. Many of us learned for the first time how the impact of the school children’s response in Birmingham influenced the national civil rights movement. We continued to Selma where we had the opportunity to be led through its history by JoAnne Bland, a civil rights activist who first marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday as a young teenager. Years later, on the 50th anniversary of the march, she walked across the bridge once again holding the hands of President Obama and Rep. John Lewis. JoAnne’s passion for fighting for what’s right and never giving up was and is an inspiration for us all.

The driver of our bus, Jake Williams, led us on the Civil Rights Trail from Selma to Montgomery that so many marched with Dr. King in the sixties. Jake was one of those marchers. What a gift to once again be led by someone who lived and still lives, the fight for civil rights.

Montgomery was our final destination to witness, learn, and be moved by the struggle for freedom that was and is a part of our history. The extraordinary Legacy Museum is not to be missed if you have an interest in the history of African Americans and the struggle for freedom in America. We individually and collectively let the experience soak into our bones as we then experienced the National Monument for Peace & Justice, often referred to as the Lynching Memorial. Slabs of iron, hanging from the ceiling, represent this very real part of our history. Each representing a different county with the names of those lynched etched into memory.

It’s impossible to replicate the shared and individual experiences that we had as a traveling sangha – sitting in the middle of so much suffering and brutality. The attached slideshow is a humble attempt to share that experience from our hearts.

With deep bows and love.