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This Far by Faith

Journeys

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About the Series
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1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING
The Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage TODAY: The Journey Continues



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Timeline: 1967-TODAY View Detailed Timeline
TODAY: The Journey Continues
TODAY: The Journey Continues



1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING
The Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage



"Civilization has nothing to do with having electric lights, airplanes, or manufacturing atomic bombs...Civilization is to hold one another in mutual affection and respect. What constitutes its foundation is not the establishment of a judicial system, but religious faith that seeks gentleness, peace, simplicity and uprightness." --Nichidatsu Fujii (1885-1985) Founder, Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order


Towards the end of the twentieth century, and despite the advances made by African Americans in the military, corporate, and government sectors, American schools remained practically as segregated as they were in 1954. The Department of Justice stopped enforcing busing requirements to force desegregation in 1981. Blacks own 3% of US businesses and are 3% of US doctors. When applying for a mortgage to buy a home, blacks have a 2:1 rejection rate even while the president of Fannie Mae, the quasi-governmental corporation set up to finance home ownership, is a black man, Franklin Raines.


Ingrid Askew and daughter Raina with monk.

Ingrid Askew and daughter Raina with monk.


Faith has never been enough to get blacks and whites through the conversation about the legacy of slavery. Since the victories of the civil rights movement, whites see only the advances blacks have made, while too many blacks need all the faith they can muster just to get up and face another day. Whites tire of hearing blacks whine about how bad things are. Blacks get irritated at whites' inability to see the daily indignities so many still have to put up with.

Recognizing that stalemate, noting the contradictions inherent in the statistics, and wishing to start a dialogue between whites and blacks and among denominations about the persistence of the color line and its legacy, Sister Clare Carter, a Buddhist nun, and Ingrid Askew, an African- American, Massachusetts-based performance artist, "walked out on faith." They decided to organize what they called the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage - a march that would begin in Massachusetts and end in Africa.

From May 30, 1998 to June 12, 1999, the pilgrims walked. They walked from Lexington Massachusetts to New Orleans, Louisiana, visiting 215 towns and cities along the way. They took a boat through the Caribbean and crossed the Atlantic to end their journey in Capetown, South Africa.

It was a march. It was a group-encounter session. It was a spiritual journey. It was an exploration into the legacy of racism and slavery that binds blacks and whites in this country.







For Sister Clare, most of all, it was a way to draw whites into the conversation about race. Sister Clare's Buddhist order chants "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo," an ancient Sanskrit mantra that refers to the way a lotus flower can bloom from the muddy depths of the water. They hoped that, in a similar way, digging through the muck of slavery's history could result in a flowering of understanding and compassion among the walkers - an understanding that would then spread out into America as a whole.

Read the co-founders reasons for going on the pilgrimage:
Ingrid Askew (PDF)
Sister Clare Carter (PDF)

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Abiodun Oyewole, Founding Member, "The Last Poets," talks about his faith in revolution
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Learn more about the African burial ground in Manhattan

See a map of slave markets on the Washington Mall (PDF)




Did You Know?



Pilgrims marched for a variety of reasons.
more


Buddhist philosophy holds that you face yourself, first.
more


There are over two thousand different Buddhist sects.

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