From pandemic to protest. 2020 has been a difficult year. We seek spiritual leadership. During this time, Tony and I look to the healing words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This eulogy was given in 1963 following a bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. “They were discussing the eternal meaning of love”, he says, reflecting on the girls last moments within the walls of the church.
A timeline of the events leading up the event was summarized in a 2019 in a CNN article:
September 15, 1963 – A bomb blast at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, kills four African-American girls during church services. At least 14 others are injured in the explosion, including Sarah Collins, the 12-year-old sister of victim Addie Mae Collins, who loses an eye.Three former Ku Klux Klan members are eventually convicted of murder for the bombing.
Addie Mae Collins, 14
Denise McNair, 11
Carole Robertson, 14
Cynthia Wesley, 14
September 15, 1963 –
– Riots break out, and two African-American boys, Virgil Ware, 13, and Johnny Robinson, 16, are also killed. In all, at least 20 people are injured from the initial bombing and the ensuing riots.
– Alabama Governor George Wallace sends 500 National Guardsmen and 300 state troopers to the city. The next day, they are joined by 500 police officers and 150 sheriffs’ deputies.
September 16, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy responds by saying, “If these cruel and tragic events can only awaken that city and state – if they can only awaken this entire nation to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress before more lives are lost.”
The hope embodied in this eulogy must remain in our national aspirations. We pray that we are striving to become a more just and equitable society – a core part of King’s dream. It pains us that George Floyd’s death is not an outlier, but only another death of people of color at the hands of the police.
A BBC article lists a timeline of deaths since Eric Garner’s death by choke hold in 2014. Say their names in your thoughts and prayers, but more importantly, proactively work on behalf of those most oppressed who live in a nation desperately needing healing.