“Listen – your brother’s blood cries out from the earth…” Gen 4:10
ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃
Waking up in Central Time in Montgomery, I am reflecting on yesterday’s visit to EJI’s Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. The museum is situated on the site of a warehouse where Black people were forced into bondage. It begins with stepping into the ocean, with remembering the more than 12 million people trafficked from their homes across the Atlantic, the two million who perished along the way, for whom the ocean floor became their burial ground. It tells the story of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the impact on and role of the North and Coastal communities. It tells the stories of the Domestic Slave Trade, Reconstruction, lynching, racial segregation codified into law, and the emergence of mass incarceration in recent decades. It tells the stories of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I couldn’t stop thinking about Tyre Nichols.
In the museum, we traced the throughline of inhumane systems of violence against Black people in this country designed to protect White dominance and racial hierarchy. There are many first person narratives. There are collages of headlines and classified ads and photographs that lay our history bare. There is art and video. There is music and space and silence. There are stories of the courage of ordinary people who did extraordinary things to fight for justice and civil rights.
I spent the most time taking in the breathtakingly powerful Community Remembrance Project, which commemorates the more than 4,000 people who were lynched across 20 states from 1877-1950. People around the country have collected soil in glass jars at the sites where these horrific acts of mob violence took place. The jars of earth are displayed with the names of the victims and the dates and locations of their deaths. The soil is red and brown, rocky and fine. The earth, in all its textures and shades, bears witness.
You can click on a map of the US and read their stories. I located my hometown of Montgomery County, Maryland. I learned about John Diggs-Dorsey who worked for a family in Darnestown, who was killed by mob violence in 1880. I learned about George Peck and Sydney Randolph.
I thought of the verse in Genesis – “Listen- your brother’s blood cries out from the earth.”
-Rabbi Annie Lewis