Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Civil Rights Tour: Montgomery - Civil Rights Memorial

We visited the Civil Rights Memorial early on Saturday morning, when the rest of Montgomery was still sleeping. The memorial is a couple of blocks from the Capitol and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. It was designed by Maya Lin, the same woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and it is similarly simple and moving.

The memorial is a huge, asymmetric, inverted pyramid of black stone with a fountain in the middle that bubbles up in a smooth sheet of water that spreads across the top and slips down the sides.
Etched into the stone are the names of 41 people who died in the struggle for racial justice between the 1954 Supreme Court decision on Brown vs. The Board of Education and Martin Luther King Jr.'s death in 1968. Important or particularly disturbing events from the Civil Rights fight are also included.

 The memorial is simple and elegant and deeply moving.
 Just behind the memorial is a black stone wall with a smooth sheet of water flowing over it and Dr. King's famous biblical paraphrasing from the "I Have a Dream" speech etched across the front.

This is a monument that is meant to be touched.
 As we walked slowly around, reading the names and events to ourselves, we were drawn again and again to the water.
 The water was a tactile connection to those lost lives, those traumatic events, that history.
 The smooth stone and cool water, the rougher lines of letters and words, the shadows and ripples and reflections were deeply compelling.
 And in the presence of all that pain and tragedy, the water was soothing. It was healing. It brought hope.
May we all keep fighting until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

1 comment:

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