by Sister Carolyn Law
Black History Month is celebrated every February in several countries and in the United Kingdom in October. It began as a way to honor Africans and African culture in the diaspora. Black history was, and perhaps still is, sorely missing in traditional academic curriculum.
In my little peace group, Pax Christi St. Gertrude, we have been showing a movie on a peace or justice theme once a month for over a year. We call it “Conscientious Projector”, a name we borrowed from another church. It is a challenge to keep it up. Fortunately modern hand-held cameras and technology makes it easier for freelancers to produce excellent documentaries.
For this Black History month we are choosing to show “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till”. Emmett was a fourteen-year-old African American boy from Chicago, Illinois, who was brutally murdered in Mississippi. He was murdered for whistling at a white woman. Let me share what I learned.
The murder of Emmett Till was one of the leading events that motivated the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. The year before Emmett’s murder, 1954, was the year that the historic Brown vs. The Board of Education ruling by the Supreme Courst struck down the practice of separate but equal practice in education. This ruling opened a door to civil rights and a hope for equality. Emmett’s death was a stark reminder of how far we would have to travel to overcome racism.
A main reason that this murder was so pivotal is that his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, insisted first that her son not be buried quickly in Mississippi. Secondly, after winning the right to bring his body to Chicago, she insisted that his casket be opened for all to see the brutality of the murder. The photo and story were published throughout the nation. Both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King where inspired by Emmett to undertake the Montgomery bus boycott.
“The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” documentary was released in 2005. The director’s research led to the reopening of the investigation by the Department of Justice in 2004. This new investigation has not yet concluded. A “Till” bill was passed which established a unit in the Department of Justice for the investigation of old Civil Rights cases.
In June of 2005, the U.S. Senate also passed a resolution apologizing for not passing an anti-lynching law 105 years earlier. It was only passed in 1968. Eighty of the 100 senators co-sponsored this resolution. (Why not 100 co-sponsors?) I googled on the topic of lynching and what I read makes my soul tremble.
Today we have an African American president and once again our hearts are hopeful, not only for all that President Obama promises for our nation, our world and our planet, but for the possibility that our nation will be able to heal some of the scars and wounds of racism that mar our schools, our churches and our society
I have been a little long winded here. I hope you found my musings interesting.
Written by Sister Jan Kilian, this blog will give an understanding of what it’s like to be Franciscan. Living out the spirit of Saint Francis, we see all God’s creation as brother and sister. We, Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, are committed to building relationships and community, ministering wherever there is greatest need, promoting justice and healing Mother Earth’s wounds. My writings will give a glimpse of the compassion, spirituality, interconnectedness and goodness of living Franciscan.