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Finding Sanctuary! Black American His/Herstory 360

How the Montgomery, Alabama National Memorial For Peace and Justice Serves As A Healing Sanctuary For Black America's Mental Health, PTSD Trauma, and Psychology!

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)
(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

In this country, these United States of America, we Negro, we Coloured folk, have had our own way of thinking. Our own mental ways of coping and dealing with the realities, given to us. You didn’t get the luxury of getting mental help and psychology, if you were not deemed to be. . .human. Nevertheless, we did not stay stuck in our enslavement. We built her/history. We continue to create culture. No other group has had to endure the brunt of what was required of us. No other group has had to spin Blackness into gold, inside of foreign caves; using constant spans of time to produce gardens, in infertile soil. Thereby, making these caves, are very own.

On August 8, 2019, the journey to Montgomery, Alabama, with my Mother, would bring me to a sacred spacing. A temple highlighting one chapter of the brutal slaying, and genocidal attempts against Black Americans in the United States of America. Mainstream newspapers had written about it. The press went wild with the popularity and unique design of the architecture. That creativity genius of aligning spiritual representations of the ancestors with artistic representations and design. It was the latter portion of the tour, where we would enter the The National Memorial For Peace and Justice. A “memorial” for some, but a protective spacing for those who truly understood what it’s presence was about. Those who were aware that there was still life within that space. And, that in order to respect that life, one must be silent; while being light in those ordered steps.

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

The taking of our bodies from western waters of African coasts was vigilant for all to see. The journey to the sacred temple was not an unbearable , though it was not short. For each step, one was preparing oneself for the journey that lay ahead. Getting in alignment with the lightness needed to be felt, so that footsteps did not disturb those tranquility, head. Tranquility designed to highlight representations of spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical violence against Black American bodies. The day was hot, and one could only imagine. . .deeply imagine. . .how many Black American people had been lynched, murdered, and tortured right on that very path. That very path that visitors walked upon, to get to that temple space, how many endured the whips and chains of slavery right in this very spot, where cement had been laid? How many walked many steps, in the hot sun to tend to a system, that hated their very existence? How many trekked the very same soiling, located under the freshly-laid, green grass and cemented steps, in their journey up North (or to Canada) in order to taste the fruits of freedom? And, finally, how many stood in this very same spacing, in defiance, willing to give their lives, for the protection of their families-their menfolk, womenfolk, kinfolk, and future folk-and the securing of future seedlings to come?

(Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

These questions continue to blanket my mind. And so the lightness of my feet continues to walk in pace with the path, that is marked for my way. Awaiting the many visitors of the site, were myriad symbols of Negro bodies-those known and those we will never hear of. Visual representation for one of the most horrific accounts in United States soils. Some had come to the spacing for reasons other than honor, and respect. Their vocal amplitude was too high, and it was vexing. You could tell that they practiced illusions of progress and memory, rather than the actual practicality. The treasures of being part of that world were immaculate. It was as if the lost ones were saying, “here we are. We are present. The torch belongs to you.”

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)
(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Passing through each block. . .symbolic of a physical life that had been. Celebrating the spiritual life that will always be. It is the latter part, that makes healing from this trauma, possible. The names of fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, mothers, wives, daughters, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, and aunts were engraved in these giant slabs of stone.

Write their names. Write their names so that the life within them sustains. Write their names so that heaven has permission to show the illusion of losing, as one gains. Write their names so that their Spirits may visit us through other Earthly domains. Write their names. Write their names. Write their names. Write their names!

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)
(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

There were other memories present. Memories of our Sheroes and Heroes, who had recently transitioned on. Memories of those whose words and dedication guided us to this very present. The Triple Feminine had been vigilant in that spacing. It was a phenomenon for Black American Her/History, as too often Mother and Maiden had been written out of the story.

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Going through each piecing of the temple, and adjusting our bodies to viewing how the ancestors have been laid throughout the area. Sayings that were delicately sprayed across the spacing. Whispers from the past, and speaking into the present. The magic of this moment was observing other Black American visitors. How many of our people were comfortable in sitting in certain spaces, and speaking on such horrors, was evident enough, that our community has been working through the mental trauma; as has been passed down from generation to generation. Despite how successful we are-our degrees, careers, and economic status-this very structure is a reminder that many of us are doing the work to heal from this pain. A trauma, where we did not seek to a therapist for. A trauma, where there was no case study or clinical diagnosis for treatment. A trauma which has been transitioned through our genetic memory. The very fact that we were able to sit and speak with each other on our experience, showcased the current work that is happening, within Black America, to heal from this psychological turmoil. Breaking and finally ending the generational curses, that continues to plague our community.

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

The beautiful thing about this particular section of the memorial is that it was surrounded by a garden. Flowers of silken elegance, that resemble the re-birth and fruition of our people. Colorful design and astounding aesthetics of our cultural markings. What we have produced and what we will continue to be. Peace had encircled the place, and it was the perfect gesture for understanding that life continues to bloom-even in the midst of atrocities.

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

Walking out of that section of the National Memorial For Peace and Justice, was another venture, in itself. It was raining, and that experience is to be re-captured during another time. Yet, during the rain, the memorial served as a shelter, a sanctuary from the rain. Transitioning into a moment to speak with an elder, who directed me to his/herstorical information for me to look up. It was enchanting to say the least. One of the mentors on my Sheroes Journey.

Sitting back to reflect, it was years ago in 2002 (to be exact), when that painful her/history had made it’s way to Atlanta. In collaboration with Emory University, the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, hosted the Without Sanctuary exhibition. Going through that exhibit was something that seemed incomplete. A future project needed to complete the mission. It meant that those from our community, whose lives were stolen, would finally have a place, where they were safe. A space where they were honored and protected. A temple where they had sanctuary. In The National Memorial For Peace and Justice of Montgomery, Alabama, it had been found.

(Photograph and Edits By Lauren K. Clark)

For more information on The National Memorial For Peace and Justice of Montgomery, Alabama, you may go to the following link: https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/memorial

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