Learning, Living, Leaning Into the Dream

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This July, as part of the 2012 Summer Justice Tour, five teens, four retired folk and I spent three days working on a Habitat for Humanity site in Ashville, AL (outside of Birmingham).  We were helping to rebuild a home destroyed by the devastating 2011 spring

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This July, as part of the 2012 Summer Justice Tour, five teens, four retired folk and I spent three days working on a Habitat for Humanity site in Ashville, AL (outside of Birmingham).  We were helping to rebuild a home destroyed by the devastating 2011 spring storms.  In addition to our low-skill base and lack of experience, we were battling dangerous heat.

Learning, Living, Leaning Into the Dream

Raising Our First Wall

Our main task was to help frame the house, building and raising external and internal walls.  Fortunately, it does not require a great deal of skill to do so; attention to detail and tenacity go a long way toward accomplishment.  Our first effort required a great deal of “nail straightening,” redos and restarts; but the sense of accomplishment when the wall went up was euphoric. More than once we giggled about the irony of “building walls” when we had been touring the sacred sites of the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Learning, Living, Leaning Into the Dream

Rosa Parks, “First Lady of Civil Rights”

Part of the Justice Tour included a visit to the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University in Montgomery, AL.  The museum presents the events of 1 December 1955 in a way that provocatively creates a sense that you are standing outside the bus as she refused to give up her seat.  Sometimes we forget that even though Rosa Parks is oft cited at the “mother of the freedom movement,” she was not the first to resist bus segregation.  Irene Morgan did so in 1944 in Virgina; Sara Keys also did so in 1952 in South Carolina; and Claudette Colvin did so in Montgomery nine months prior to Rosa Parks.  But something happend in December 1955.  Rosa, herself, said so:

At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this. It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.

-Rosa Parks

On Sunday, 28 August 1963, Dr King delivered the now famous “I Have a Dream Speech” to over 200,000 supports marchers and supports.  This year will be the 49th anniversary.  The speech is riddled with powerful turns of phrase:

…the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity…an exile in his own land.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

We have also come to this hollowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.  This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

The quotation, the directive that I have oft found the most powerful, however, is

We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with SOUL FORCE.

Learning, Living, Leaning Into the Dream

Exterior Finished Walls

The teens who built the walls on the Habitat house started slowly and with initial hesitation; they were unsure about their ability to accomplish the task before them.  But they stuck it out and were careful as they confronted the heat that threatened to wither their drive.  By the end of the third day, they had finished the remaining outside walls and several interior ones.  They were confident in their new abilities and used newly acquired skills with determination and purpose.  The quote from Marianne Williamson was often an inspiration to us as we worked:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

-Marianne Williamson

Learning, Living, Leaning Into the Dream

Four Girls from 16th

 While we finished raising the exterior walls, we did not finish the house (of course).  Groups came before us and a team arrived shortly behind us; the work will continue until the house is finished and the family can move in.

Rosa Parks was not the first to protest the unjust bus laws; to her surprise, however, “masses of the people joined in.”  It was a long, dangerous journey from 1955 to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the “I Have a Dream Speech.”  Just over two weeks after Dr. King’s speech, on Sunday, 15 September 1963, 16th Street Baptist Church was infamously bombed; Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair, all little girls, were killed.

When I hear Dr. King’s directive to respond with “soul force,” I hear it as a call to shine as Children of God.  When the masses join together, transformation can happen.  When we do the good we can, where we can, when we can, renewal and resurrection can come.  Saints and martyrs come before us and will come behind us; we have to learn, live, and lean our way into the Dream.  Tenacity goes a long way toward accomplishment.

UPDATE!  October 2012 Justice Tour: Birmingham, AL

Rev. Michael will lead an Autumn Justice Tour on October 6 & 7 to Birmingham, AL.  The trip will include a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and worship at 16th Street Baptist Church.

Registration is required by 23 September.  For more information or to register, contact Rev. Michael.

A Spring Justice Tour is being planned for Selma-Montgomery (tentatively 9-10 March 2013).

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/08/24/learning-living-leaning-into-the-dream/

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