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Day 7: Returning Home for the First Time

By Benjameen Quarless

Today we spent the day at 16th Street Baptist Church, the place where four young girls were killed by a bombing attack. In light of the spiritual energy in the building, I was reminded of the effects of sin in the world. From the theological perspective, sin separates people from God and from one another. Whether one is a believer or not, it is true that violence and anger drive wedges between people and make it hard for them to become citizens in the “Beloved Community.”

My grandfather was born in Birmingham, Alabama, also known as “Bombingham” for explosive violence directed against blacks in the 1900s, and the site of this church bombing. In a response to Jim Crow oppression, my grandfather had to make a choice. He had to choose between raising his family in that overtly degrading Southern society, or leave brothers and sisters in Birmingham to raise his own family. He chose to leave Birmingham and eventually moved to Washington State.

What this shows to me is that the effects of not respecting human dignity is to not allow humans to go home to grow in community with one another. In the Baptist church today we heard the lyrics of a popular hymn that stated, “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free”. My grandfather, a World War II veteran, was too proud to subjugate him or his family to the Jim Crow laws. He was also a dedicated father and therefore was unwilling to go to his grave early and leave his kids without a father. As a result of the sin of Jim Crow, there was a wedge placed between the family.

As a result, I want to work in my personal life to recognize where wedges are being placed in between people. Wedges of unjust wages, education and access to resources exist in our society. It is unfortunate because unlike during the Jim Crow days, these wedges are not labeled white or colored for easy identification. These wedges are now discretely labeled under the disguises of immigration laws, education systems, and exploitative foreign policies. I urge all of those people to look in their societies and find the wedges in their respective societies and work to remove them.

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