The following is a meditation written by Leigh Anne Armstrong (see bio below), written as a reflection on her visit to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. You can enjoy her other writings on her blog: Stumbling Toward Light. We’re so pleased that Leigh Anne would share with us yet another of her writings.
For the hanged and beaten.
For the shot, drowned, and burned.
For the tortured, tormented, and terrorized.
For those abandoned by the rule of law.
We will remember.
With hope because hopelessness is the enemy of justice.
With courage because peace requires bravery.
With persistence because justice is a constant struggle.
With faith because we shall overcome.
--The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
I spent a warm Alabama spring day on a Montgomery clearing, peaceful and quiet even within sight of downtown's historic old brick buildings and glass-and-steel towers.
The sounds that day were muted--feet shuffling on crushed stone pathways, water a steady flowing tribute over smooth wood and stone, voices hushed with the weight of history. The weight of peace.
This was no typical tourist stop, not yet anyway. No selfies made, no jaded travelers, no joking scoffers.
Each visitor's journey was a solitary one, wandering alone under the pendulous weight of the lynched. Surrounded by the names of the (relatively few) known among the many to have been murdered in racial terror.
For drinking from a white man's well.
For using inappropriate language with a white woman.
For asking a white woman for a drink. For voting...in 1948.
As I wandered, stood, sat, stared with the weight of peace won through justice heavy on on my shoulders (because I bear the weight of this injustice as part of my American heritage), the tracks of my tears mirrored the tracks on the faces around me, and the tribute water flowing down the memorial wall I faced.
A place like this could change your life. And for peace' sake, it's about time.
When I say, Life's not fair, I'm mostly kidding, at least when I'm talking about my own life. Little inconveniences, bad breaks, someone's bad choices (not always mine)--these comprise the extent of my life's unfair moments. So, were I to cry out for justice on my own behalf, it would mostly be a mockery, or misplaced, or a momentary self-pity.
But this I know, as surely as the other. If, because life is, on the whole, just for me, I should assume that justice is accomplished for all, and the time for striving after a just world is past, I am dead wrong with the sort of bull-headed wrongness driven in tight circles by ego, short-sightedness, and self-worship.
If, because my life is fine, I decide that all lives are fine, I am only a mercenary and not a citizen, out to get the spoils of this life without regard for my sisters' and brothers' welfare.
Real justice leaves no one behind. Hope won't allow it.
Leigh Anne Armstrong has spent most of her life in Auburn AL, where she was fortunate to grow up as part of a vibrant university community, and even more fortunate to be nurtured and supported by a progressive Baptist church. In that church, at various times, she has served as deacon, interim minister, children’s and handbell choirs director, Bible study leader, English language teacher, and VBS leader. She has been active in leadership of AL Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and has been a writer for the Smyth & Helwys Reflections devotional series.