I’m An Endangered Species…

I am an endangered species, But I sing no victim's song. I am a woman I am an artist, And I know where my voice belongs. – Diane Reeves, American Jazz Singer 

My wife and I had planned to take this journey before COVID predominated our lives, so it's been a long time coming. The desire to visit the museums, especially in Montgomery, Alabama, was really bright in our hearts – to be on sacred ground and to know more deeply an area of the country that mimics the nation, and to understand why my people left the south running for their lives, surviving so that I can live and heal and talk about it. I want to share a bit of this journey and how I was impacted and the invitation that I think it brings to all of us, especially in bodies of color. 

Leaving for this trip, I expected my heart to be broken and opened again and again. You start off thinking you know something only to discover that experiences are like a bland soup until the flavors of wisdom are tasted. 

We visited the Tuskegee Airmen Museum in Alabama, and walked the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, imagining Bloody Sunday. Some of you have probably taken this trip, so you probably know what I'm talking about. We also spent time in Birmingham and Atlanta. History was top of mind. The most profound and anticipated moments were in Montgomery. The National Memorial for Peace & Justice and the Legacy Museum together felt like an ocean of wisdom was tasted – swallowed in one gulp! 

The Legacy Museum is set up as a journey from enslavement to mass incarceration, and I think what it does most profoundly is show us how the past is still present. And even more deeply, not only does it show the journey of my people, if you will, it shows the systems that are in place that perpetuate the structure, the skeletal shape of racism in this country and in its foundation. So this was quite palpable. 

It was truly an immersive experience to be in this Legacy Museum. You might even call it a concentration practice, but not the kind of concentration practice where your sense of self is dissolved, but more you are in the belly of experience – the lived experiences of Black bodies. 

Just imagine – this is an 11,000-square-foot construction, part of the Equal Justice Initiative. It’s located on the site of a former warehouse where Black people were forced to labor in Montgomery, housed in this exquisite, visceral, highly stimulating, high-tech-savvy kind of layout. There wasn't anything linear about the layout of the building. So to be in it was to lose yourself and to surrender to all of the stimuli coming at you. There were times when I felt lost moving through space. Does this sound familiar? Sometimes it feels this way in our meditation practice, right? I felt lost and like, “Where the hell am I?” And, “What just happened?” It's like when I go home to my family and everybody's talking at the same time, but we understand everything being said. That kind of immersion, that kind of full-bodied experience happening all around you, above you, below you, inside of you, through you. 

African people did not have the dharma, per se, but they had something quite astounding, something I could feel when I moved through these exhibits, something real and wordless, that was bought to live and reborn in me as I moved through. I'm not sure how they did what they did. I can only imagine the sacrifices made by my ancestors that got me here in this seat able to talk about it. I don't know what made them endure. But they had something that I feel I need today. Something that reminds me what I'm made of. Something that supports me in sitting up straight with a strong core – this remembrance of the journey and this baptism into the truth of our legacy, inheritance, and brilliance. All that was then and now – the miracle and the promise. I’m humbled, grateful, and fierce with clarity! 

I am an endangered species, But I sing no victim's song. I am a woman I am an artist, And I know where my voice belongs. – Diane Reeves, American Jazz Singer 

Listen to the full talk: My Civil Rights Road Trip 

Photo Credit: Vaschelle Andre, Divine Photography

1 thought on “I’m An Endangered Species…”

  1. Rosetta Archie

    Dear Ms Ruth King,
    Thank You for your powerful message and I appreciate you how you express your life and feelings! I relate to you on many levels and feel absolutely kindred spirit! Thank You!

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