The following piece was published in The Birmingham News on May 14, 2018. Click here to view the full article.
By Dima Khalidi
Two weeks ago, I made a pilgrimage, with thousands of others, to witness the opening of the Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama. Entering the Memorial, I saw hundreds of rusted metal pillars, first standing at eye level, then gradually, as the corner turned and the floor descended, lifting from the ground until they were hanging from the ceiling above, etched with the names of Black victims of brutal lynchings from around the country. Over 4,400 lynched Black bodies were represented on those pillars.
Those pillars are meant to be a constant reminder of where this country has been. The Equal Justice Initiative's (EJI) recently unveiled Memorial, together with its Legacy Museum are some of the most haunting and courageous efforts to not only resurrect this country's dark past, but to also trace it to a present in which Black lives are still devalued and forsaken.
The most powerful way to bury a history of oppression is to sever it from the present, to deny that such oppression is in any way connected to the current status quo. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, in a panel moderated by the renowned poet Elizabeth Alexander during the opening summit for the Museum and Memorial, shared with us her motivation to tell Black stories. She said, as I wrote in my notebook, "We so often find ourselves in a story we're not telling," which means that "every day, we're not sure who owns our stories."