Having lived through “Charlottesville’s summer of hate” which filled our streets with conflict and violence, I long to affirm a different message – saying “no” to separation, racism and hate and “yes” to inclusion, justice and love. I am not alone. Many people in Charlottesville are organizing valuable activities to educate about, respond to and stake out a position on white supremacy, systemic racism and inequality. We need to recognize racism before we can dismantle it.
One response taking shape grew out of a speech Rev. William Barber gave about a week after the alt-right brawl. It spoke to my heart. This response, a Pilgrimage from Charlottesville to Jamestown, is rooted in a desire to acknowledge the immorality of racism, its origins, its history and its legacy.
Before the summer of 2017, the Charlottesville Clergy Collective, an interfaith, interracial group, had been meeting regularly to get to know one other, build trust, promote racial unity and highlight local issues of racial and social justice. This structure offered a framework from which to respond to the white supremacist rallies. Members of the Clergy Collective developed diverse responses befitting the moral underpinnings of our different faiths. But even taken collectively our actions did not adequately respond to the racist underpinnings of these rallies. While we are now consciously working on healing, many of us desire to do more to address racism.
It is time to recognize this reality: Our country was stolen from land inhabited by indigenous people and built on the backs of black people. Our history has created an American caste system that is alive today. It is time to reinvigorate the work of creating an equal and just society, one perhaps imagined but not yet realized.
October 2019 will mark 400 years since the first ships brought enslaved Africans to this continent. Those ships landed in Jamestown. To unveil the myth of the benevolent explorers and discoverers, a Pilgrimage of Transformation is being designed to close the narrative gap of our history. This Pilgrimage intends to recognize the invasion experienced by the indigenous people and humanize the enslaved Africans. Both peoples developed resilience, leadership and solidarity despite their inhumane and unjust treatment.
This Pilgrimage will occur in two phases: the first based in Charlottesville (October 6-12), the second walking from Richmond to Jamestown (October 13-20). We will honor the lives of the enslaved and those dispossessed of their land, and move toward racial healing.
Why a Pilgrimage? When taking a Pilgrimage, we open to the unknown, inviting discovery, growth and transformation. We hope to lay down the typical white response of defensiveness and denial when talking about race, and open to compassion and understanding. We will hear about realities we don’t know. While we will learn about systems and policies that perpetuate racism, we undertake this sojourn from a place of love. We will have opportunities to build new relationships, relationships of respect and trust. With open hearts, hearts turned toward each other, we will continue walking the path paved by others who have worked for equality and justice for all.
We can help America become what it must become.
Rev. Rabia Povich
Inayati Order of Charlottesville