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.