Rev. Arthur Davis, kidnapped and brutally murdered by lynching in Abbeville Alabama in 1950.Rev. Arthur Davis, kidnapped and brutally murdered by lynching in Abbeville Alabama in 1950.

I have never punched a preacher before.

Just to be clear I still haven’t ( and will never) but I can now say I have thought about it. Yesterday I had a conversation with an Alabama preacher. It did not go well. The wonderful thing about a personal journal is you write what you think and feel. Disclaimer this is one of those moments. For the record, I’m a man of faith, belief in a higher power, call it naive if you wish. A preacher has no monopoly on faith. A holy roller I am not. I have problems with people who think they are better than others because their particular brand of faith is superior and all others by default marginalized.

The rules I follow are simple.

  1. My woman is always right, even when she is wrong, but in the 32 years since I met her, she has only been wrong once (not marrying me at first sight and having a dozen children). I forgave her.
  2. You never really know what the hell is going on, no matter how much you think you know, which is limited to your senses and a gazillion neuronic connections that record but not neccesarily remember our experiences accurately or fully - we never know, what we dont know, that we dont know. In other words, there are knowables, known unknowables and then the unknown unknowables ( thank Donald Rumsfield for that).
  3. I try to consider how to treat others in the manner I would want to be treated. ( credit Rabbi Hillel and Jesus for that)

4- I make an exception to rule 3 when I witness a person harming another.

This is one of those exceptions.

I was asked by an Abbevillian yesterday why am I posting black stuff” (instagram). Later their preacher and I engaged in a text discussion about black stuff.”

He advised me ( he is white ) that the black community does not want to know or remember it’s past because they are tired of seeing themselves potrayed as victims. They want to look forward not backward. Focus on immedaite things that matter like drug abuse - like opiates. Not dwell on a negative past. Don’t fault me, he added I am just the messenger.

Ok lets pause…a white preacher is explaining why the black community does not want to be dwelling on history, telling it, honoring it, etc. Here we go with the we-they b.s. again… they (black folks) don’t want to discuss and are tired of being portrayed as victims. Further, the black community has an opiate” issue. It’s not quite as polarizing as meth in this area which is exclusively white, but opiate abuse is predominately a white issue here. Strangely no white church in the county speaks of crack. Nearly a dozen middle to upper-income white men have committed suicide in your community of a little over a thousand people. The normal to be expected rate is .000098 per thousand. Or roughly 1 suicide per every ten years. In the past few few years you have a pattern of very unlikely victims that include a former mayor and one of the wealthiest men in your community. The dead include deacons and members of church choirs. 14 of them, all white. There is a problem pastor, but it’s not opiates. Its what Irving Janis termed groupthink.

I would argue when a film about Recy Taylor garners worldwide attention and was played in the royal theatre for the British parliament winning universal acclaim it proves your mistaken. How did your community of so-called white preachers respond? You refused to allow it to be played. Because umm… to quote the largest Methodist church preacher, it was too controversial, and we (not they) are focused on moving forward not backward. Immediate things. Strange how his words are almost verbatim what you texted me.

Perhaps the recent opening of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice begs to differ as well. Of course, my immediate question, have you, as a white preacher in a small community responsible for over a dozen brutal hate crime murders been to visit the monument that’s less than an hour’s drive away? Let me guess…no you have not. You and your fellow preachers are to busy…as you term it moving forward.

I am still having trouble understanding how in Abbeville Alabama a white preacher seems to know more about the way the black community as he describes it, doesn’t want to try to tell and educate the world about a history his people erased. Naaah I don’t think so. History is history dude, the reason a sub-genre of black history largely exists is that whites like you refused to include it in history in the first place. Read Leon Litwack and Robin D.G. Kelly for starters on that one and get back to me.

Facts are …all around this community are Confederate monuments. Monuments here monuments there, parks, historical markers you name it. All for dead white people that owned slaves. I’m white, they don’t particularly bother me until I think through it and put myself in the shoes of those it does offend… then it does. Further, I have to ask if you’re going to honor those who lost wars and committed genocide, where are the monuments for Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, King George?

Monument to the largest slave holder in the south near Abbeville Alabama. No record exists of where those who were tortured, murdered and died were buried. Nor does history record their names.Monument to the largest slave holder in the south near Abbeville Alabama. No record exists of where those who were tortured, murdered and died were buried. Nor does history record their names.

Perhaps as an architect and landscape architect I’m hyper-sensitive to use of civic space. I don’t have the luxury to view place and measure it with my own narrow self-interest. By default I have to consider it’s meaning to the community as a whole. It’s not about whether the monuments bother me as a white dude who had ancestors who fought in the civil war, its about does it offend those who were criminally enslaved by people like you that murdered people to keep them enslaved. It’s hard to move on” as you put it when your whole community in part is saturated with slogans, memorials, high school kids riding around in trucks with huge rebel flags on them they view as a cultural symbol while continually reminding your community of genocide.

And let’s get the semantics straight, stop saying slavery was legal. Bullshit. A culture / economy’s agents went to a foreign country and kidnapped people, brought them ( 1/3 rd were thrown overboard dead) and sold them into slavery. That’s called HUMAN TRAFFICKING. So stop all the excuses that oh well slavery was legal back in the day so get over it.

See here’s what little I know, Joe Lewis came from this county. Where is his monument? Rosa Parks forced to leave her community under death threats. Where is a park or interpretative center for her? Recy Taylor who’s experiences are typical of many victims of hate crimes in this community is known for the grotesque injustice took place, where is her monument? And for the record…try to explain to me ( a landscape architect) how you build a monument that educates people about a community’s white leaders that gang raped and violated a young woman with a fence post after kidnapping her on the way to church with a bible in her hand ? Oh and what about the 20 or so people lynched in this county. Kind of hard to move on when people like you ignore all that and act like it never happened. But I get it…your moving forward. Not potraying victims as …victims. I guess not having a history, that includes a history of whites telling other whites about how we should’nt portray blacks as victims… Which makes me wonder if erasing a group’s history, is maybe the ultimate victimization ? I mean if you really hate a people you can just kill their history. Just thinking out loud pastor, evil is tricky isn’t it?

So I’ll ask you a question publicly… who is the man in the photo above? Ill go ahead and help you, because prior to reading this I bet you didn’t have a clue.

My friend Brother Jason of whom I have a healthy disagreemeent with, preaching on the street in Abbeville where Rev. Davis was abducted and lynched 68 years earlierMy friend Brother Jason of whom I have a healthy disagreemeent with, preaching on the street in Abbeville where Rev. Davis was abducted and lynched 68 years earlier

This preacher, like you, was from Henry County. He walked the same roads you do; he quoted the same verses you do. He like you preached on street corners of Abbeville. But unlike you, he was black. Unlike you, he was taken from his family and not given a pulpit but a noose where he died quoting scripture forgiving those that murdered him. And his fellow preachers, the good Christian men of Abbeville Alabama, his fellow men of faith, they don’t even know his name. They want to move on, look forward. Why ..because he was black.

Heres another photo you should study. Notice carefully how many white people are in it. Only two, both came with me and I took the photo. I would assert that this is evidence of the cruel indifference your philosophy of denial enables. A young woman goes missing for 79 days. No one cares enough to search for her even though her bloodied car is recovered. So even when a community search is put together you see how many white people showed up. For the record we found her body about 10 minutes after this photo was taken of all of us holding hands asking for God’s help. Why… the same reason Reverand Arthur Davis was brutally murdered, because he was black.

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Prayer before a search for the body of Recita Kennedy

Its called trust. For anyone who believes in truth as a principle that can guide people spiritually you must live it. Not like you be in denial of it. To quote you, brother….don’t fault me Mr. Preacher man I’m just the messenger. And the Kairos” moment you mentioned, that would have been decades ago, you missed it. It was called the civil rights movement.

So preacher heres my challenge to you. Dont speak what others desperately want you to believe. Instead to quote Maggie Kuhn, “speak truth, even if your voice shakes”. Cease your cruel indifference to a denied history of others. Talk to your congregation about Recy Taylor, talk about Sherry Williams, and tell Reverand Reggie Crawford’s story. Go to their family’s homes, meet with their families have prayers for them. Never let their memories die, never “move on”. Teach that moral lesson. Acknowledge the systemic hate in your community, shine a light on it. Because I know the smartest thing the devil does is convince others he doesn’t exist. In this case he has succeeded in fooling you.

#speakthetruth #livetheword #landscapeofhate

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Center of public space anchored by a Condeferate monument, Eufaula Alabama

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Over a thousand people were cruelly kept as slaves on what is described as the showplace” of the South in Abbeville Alabama. No record exists of where those who were murdered or died here are buried. Nor does history record their names.

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