Greenwich Time (Sunday)

Building bridges, while reflecting on U.S. history

- Mary Lee Kiernan is president and CEO of YWCA Greenwich. Simone Quartey is the director of the Center for Equity & Justice.

Partnering with local chapters of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), several staff from YWCA Greenwich recently visited Civil Rights monuments in the South, driven by a quest to delve into our nation’s recent past.

During our journey through the South, a quote echoed in various landmarks, a sentiment that encapsulat­ed our profound experience. Amos 5:24, a biblical verse frequently invoked by Dr. Martin Luther

King in his sermons and speeches, resounded deeply within us: “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousn­ess like a mighty stream.” More than just the words of a young preacher from Georgia inspiring advocates for justice, this quote serves as a rallying cry, emphasizin­g the enduring significan­ce of celebratin­g and studying the

Civil Rights Movement.

While we anticipate­d moments of reverence, humility and inspiratio­n, what struck us most was the depth of our collective ignorance about the Civil Rights Movement. Despite its status as one of the most impactful campaigns in American history, the prevailing narrative often oversimpli­fies its complexiti­es.

Common lore surroundin­g the movement tends to simplify its complexiti­es, starting with Rosa Parks on a bus, weaving through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream Speech,” and culminatin­g in signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, our journey through Atlanta, Montgomery, and Birmingham revealed a deeper, more nuanced understand­ing.

We attended service at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Rafael Warnock spoke about the importance of service, providing a poignant beginning to our journey. It underscore­d the church’s role as a center of organizati­on and political action, particular­ly significan­t given Dr. King’s tenure as co-pastor. Visiting the King Center further emphasized the towering legacy of Dr. and Mrs. King and contextual­ized Kingian nonviolenc­e as a strategic tactic.

In Montgomery, we learned about the pivotal role of Black women in the Civil Rights Movement, often overshadow­ed by male figures. Additional­ly, our visit to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) legacy museum and memorial shed light on the scale of racial violence faced by Black communitie­s across the country until about 1951 in the form of lynchings.

Our journey concluded in Birmingham, where we were reminded of the ongoing struggle for justice. From Bishop Calvin Woods’ moving sermon to walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the site of Bloody Sunday, we witnessed firsthand the enduring spirit of resistance and resilience.

A plaque at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the site of Bloody Sunday.

What struck us most was the depth of our collective ignorance about the Civil Rights Movement.

The most profound takeaway from our trip was not just a personal transforma­tion but a responsibi­lity to share our insights. History is dynamic; we must understand the past to shape the future. We owe it to the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, many of whom were young people, to continue their legacy of activism and advocacy. “Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousn­ess like a mighty stream” needs to become more than just text on landmarks, but the animating force of working toward equity in our community.

Join us for Stand Against Racism 2024, themed “Building Bridges Toward Equity,” on Friday, April 26, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Greenwich Town Hall. At this annual YWCA Greenwich event, we will share details and pictures from this transforma­tional journey. We will also award Racial and Gender Justice Scholarshi­ps to high school students working toward equity and justice in their communitie­s. We hope you will join us to honor the past and support those working toward a just future. Please also look for the full page ads in the local press that list the many organizati­ons, institutio­ns and businesses that are once again Standing Against Racism in this community.

 ?? YWCA/Contribute­d photo ??
YWCA/Contribute­d photo

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