In response to the events of August 11 and 12, 2017, the Charlottesville to Jamestown pilgrimage, sponsored by the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, provided a constructive opportunity for us to take the next step in addressing racism in America and its attending systemic injustices. During our journey, over four hundred pilgrims heard stories and untold histories, we built relationships, and we identified common concerns that need to be transformed in order to bring about racial equity.
Our journey began on Saturday, October 6, 2018, from central Charlottesville. Our first leg took us past Market Street Park (formerly Emancipation Park) and the proposed site for a marker to remember the July 12, 1898, lynching of John Henry James -- an African American man from Charlottesville. We walked on the Saunders-Monticello Trail, and ended up at Monticello for an education and reflection experience at the African American Burial Grounds, and the reading of the name of three hundred and sixty enslaved at Monticello.
During the week of October 8 to 11, we hosted educational and cultural activities in Charlottesville.
We heard Dr. Karenne Wood present the 18,000 year history of the Monacan people here in Virginia.
Mark Charles, a Navajo Christian, presented the untold history of Christianity's role in constructing white supremacy, and the United States' role in perpetrating not only the enslavement of Africans, but also the genocide of native peoples in America.
On October 12, we traveled to Richmond where we went on a Slave Walk guided by the Elegba Folklore Society, followed by a time of group reflection and discussion at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Richmond.
On October 13, we took a pilgrimage by bus to Historic Jamestowne as we traveled back through history with Mark Summers of Preservation Virginia to learn about the pursuit of commercial ventures and economic profit that led to the enslavement and oppression of Africans and native peoples. We visited Point Comfort, where Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander gave a history of the site where the first ships carrying enslaved Africans landed in 1619. We ended our pilgrimage at Fort Monroe, the Union fort where escaped slaves went to seek asylum during the Civil War. There, we held a final ceremony, and re-read the three hundred and sixty names of the enslaved at Monticello.
The Pilgrimage is sponsored by Charlottesville Clergy Collective, a nonprofit, interfaith organization committed to addressing racism. We have fifty members representing over twelve Christian denominations and four other faith traditions.
The Pilgrimage was funded by the generous support of BAMA Works Fund of Dave Matthews Band at the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, the Virginia United Methodist Foundation, the New Baptist Covenant, twelve different local faith congregations, and several individual donors. The Baptist Center for Ethics and Monticello provided in-kind services.
Many thanks to EthicsDaily.com for producing this video.
Rev. Robert Lewis, Pastor of Hinton Ave. United Methodist Church, offers closing remarks to conclude our Cville2Jtown pilgrimage.
Apostle Sarah Kelley, Pastor of Faith Hope & Love Church of Deliverance, leads in the singing of "Go Down Moses" at Ft. Monroe to end the Charlottesville to Jamestown Pilgrimage.
On Saturday, October 13, thirty-two pilgrims traveled to Jamestown and walked the final three miles along the Virginia Capital Trail to Historic Jamestowne. There, Mark Summers of Preservation Virginia gave us a no-holds-barred history of the what the first enslaved Africans experienced, and what has been obscured in the "popular" telling of the history of Jamestown. After that, we traveled to Fort Monroe (Fort Comfort) where Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander presented the history of the fort, both as the landing site of the first ships carrying enslaved Africans to Virginia, and later as the "Freedom's Fortress" that provided sanctuary for escaping slaves during the Civil War. We ended our pilgrimage by re-reading the 360 names of the enslaved at Monticello, to connect the dots between Charlottesville and Jamestowne/Ft. Monroe.
On Friday, October 12, thirty-nine pilgrims made the trek to Richmond, Virginia to walk the Trail of the Enslaved. We first were welcomed by Rev. Molly Bosscher, Associate Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. We were then led by Janine Bell and her team at the Elegba Folklore Society on an interactive, experiential walking tour on the trail of the enslaved. After the tour, we returned to St. Paul's for lunch and for small group debriefing led by Rev. Ben Campbell, Pastor Emeritus of Richmond Hill, and Abigail Ballew and Allan-Charles Chipman of Initiatives of Change Richmond VA.
Last Thursday, we had the privilege of having Mark Charles come and give a lecture on "The Heresy of Christendom and the Trauma of the Doctrine of Discovery as part of our Cville2Jtown Pilgrimage. Below is the video of his lecture, and an interview with Mark afterwards.
On Saturday, October 6, over one hundred pilgrims walked from the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, through Market St. Park and the Slave Auction Block, to Monticello. At Monticello, the pilgrims held a brief ceremony at the African American Graveyard and then went up to Mulberry Row where the names of 360 enslaved at Monticello were read aloud.
Dr. Karenne Wood, a member of the Monacan Indian Nation and an anthropologist gave a presentation called, "Stone, Bone, and Clay: Virginia Indians’ History of 18,000 Years." She examined the deep history of American Indian presence in what we now call Virginia. This presentation was co-sponsored by the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, the Charlottesville Office of Human Rights and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of UVA.
Michael Cheuk, Secretary for the Charlottesville Clergy Collective offered this welcome to the Cville2Jtown pilgrims at the Jefferson School.
Welcome to the first day of the Charlottesville to Jamestown Pilgrimage!
This Pilgrimage was the brainchild of Rev Jan Rivero, retired pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church. She was inspired by the Rev. William Barber II, who preached at First United Methodist Church last year and mentioned that Jamestown/Ft. Monroe was the location of the landing of the first ship that carried the enslaved from Africa to the colonies. Rev. Rivero wondered “What would it be like to connect the dots of racial injustice from Jamestown to Charlottesville?”
This pilgrimage is our attempt to connect the dots by offering a physical, spiritual, and communal journey spanning one week. During this time, we will learn and hear the untold histories and stories of enslaved Africans here in Charlottesville, Richmond, Jamestown and Ft. Monroe. We will learn about the 18,000 year history of the Monacan Tribe here in Virginia. For those of us who are Christian, we also have to confront Christianity’s role in constructing unjust systems and policies that we now describe as white supremacy over native peoples, black people, and other peoples of color.
We live in a time where our society is deeply fractured, divided and antagonistic towards “the other.”
Mark Charles once said, “Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”
On this day, as we walk to Monticello, we take the first steps in creating a common memory by raising the humanity of the enslaved at Monticello. As we walk together, may we also embrace the humanity of one another, a common humanity that transcends the color of our skin, that spans the differences in our ethnic identities, our religious or non-religious beliefs, our gender identities, our sexual orientations, our socio-economic and educational backgrounds, our political affiliations, and all other categories we’ve used to divide us.
As I walk, I need to remember that I’m not marching to signal my own virtue and to display my “wokeness.” No, I walk today as a Pilgrim seeking transformation: confessing my racial bias, my complicity in injustice, and my need for repentance. May my heart break, so that space can be created to include those who are not with us: especially our black and native sisters and brothers, the marginalized, the undocumented, the vulnerable, and also our detractors, skeptics, and critics.
It is my hope and prayer that each of the events of this pilgrimage will not only raise our awareness of our common humanity, but also inspire and energize us toward concrete action. We have much work to do to make right over 400 years of injustice and oppression. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” May the steps we take today be another step in the long journey toward justice and equity for all.
Finally, we want to express our thanks for the generous support of BAMA Works Fund of Dave Matthews Band at the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, the Virginia United Methodist Foundation, the New Baptist Covenant, twelve different local faith congregations, and several individual donors. The Baptist Center for Ethics has provided in-kind services. We are deeply grateful for the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and Director Andrea Douglas for providing this space for us to gather at the beginning of our pilgrimage. We are also thankful for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and President Leslie Bowman for welcoming us to Monticello later this afternoon. We also thank all the faith leaders and faith communities that are a part of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective.
Our hearts overflow with gratitude!
And now, I ask Rev. Dr. Alvin Edwards, Pastor of Mt Zion First African Church, Founder and President of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, to offer our opening prayer.
"The Heresy of Christian Empire and
the Trauma of the Doctrine of Discovery"
Thursday, October 11, 6:30 to 9:00 pm
Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, 105 Lankford Ave.
Free and open to the public.
Mark Charles, a Navajo Christian who is a Washington DC correspondent and regular columnist for Native News Online, will give a presentation that traces the history of Christianity and the United States that contributed to the oppression of native peoples and the enslavement of Africans in North America.
Charles will connect the dots beginning with
the teachings of Jesus regarding power and establishing an earthly kingdom,
to the establishment of Christendom,
to Just-War theory and the use of violent force against "infidels,"
to the white supremacist assumptions in the Declaration of Independence,
to the myth of the founding of the United States as a Christian nation,
to Abraham Lincoln and the victory of Manifest Destiny that led to the genocide of native peoples in America,
to the 13th Amendment and mass incarceration,
to the trauma that native peoples, people of color (especially blacks), and white people still carry today.
This will be an enlightening, disturbing, and challenging evening as Charles seek to uncover a common history that links us all together.
6:30 pm Presentation by Mark Charles
8:00 pm Q&A
9:00 pm End of official event.
(Mark Charles is willing to stay an hour longer for those wanting to engage further in conversation.