A journey is often defined as “an act of traveling from one place to another." I was recently reminded that travel is often transformational when it becomes more than just a physical event.
On July 30, I departed Austin on a four4-day, 2,000-mile interstate journey with my friend Rabbi Neil Blumofe. We desired to personally experience the Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., we decided to expand our journey to include sojourns in seven cities and six states in a matter of 96 hours. The purpose for this journey was to be enlightened by and to engage in the history, landmarks, tragedies and circumstances that helped to shape both of us: as persons of African American and Jewish descent, and as faith Leaders.
Our journey included experiences at the Holocaust Museum in Houston; Congo Square in New Orleans; the Pettis Bridge and Jewish synagogue in Selma; the Capitol Building, Museum and Memorial, Rosa Parks Museum and Freedom Rider Memorial in Montgomery; the 16th Street Baptist Church and Park in Birmingham; the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis; and Central High School in Little Rock. Each of these monumental locations, containing more history than anyone can comprehend in a single encounter, spoke to our hearts, minds and spirit, convincing us along the way that our journey was to be a journey of listening.
To a certain extent, I understood that our time together would be a time of listening. However, I must admit I did not imagine we would spend all that time together in a car and not once listen to the radio. So, we listened. Within each museum, we listened to the voices of the enslaved, the separated, the dehumanized, the tortured, the incarcerated, the marginalized and most vividly the martyred. As we walked the hallways, we focused our eyes on the portraits, screens and displays that attempt to capture the inconceivable reality of the journeys of millions taken from their homes and led to their demise. As we listened to the voices of both our ancestors, those who lived to tell their story and those whose stories resonate from the grave, we listened and allowed each other to wrestle with their voices, while struggling to understand how all these things could be.
And, it was in the listening, we both began to discern that the voices of our fore parents were not just speaking to tell a story. They were speaking to encourage and challenge us for the future. I heard the voices remind us that no journey placed before us is too difficult. I heard the voices demand a response from us, all who stand on the scarred and beaten shoulders of ancestors whose lives were intimately disrupted by slavery and the Holocaust, asking what will you do with our stories? How will you ensure our living and fighting were not in vain?
So, each night, in a different city, under one sky, we spent time together and separately in reflection, discerning how to respond to the voices we heard during our journey. I would never be so arrogant to suggest we figured it all out. As a matter of fact, we may have returned home with more questions than when we began. And that is the reason we value the importance of continued and “courageous conversations." Please join me and Rabbi Blumofe at Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ Night Under One Sky event on Tuesday at Umlauf Sculpture Garden to hear about our journey and continue our conversation. We hope you can be there.
The Rev. Daryl Horton serves as the assistant pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and immediate past president of the iACT board of directors. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.