July 11, 2016
STUFF I KNOW ON MONDAY © Kathleen McKern Verigin
I am a news hound. Most mornings I read The New York Times. I listen to NPR when I’m in the car. I especially like hearing news updates from the BBC. In the evening I check in with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. (Did the last reference surprise you?) I bring up news topics with my husband and friends, because I want to know what they are thinking and feeling. I do all of this not because I want to blame or shame, or to be intellectually admired. I do it in pursuit of Truth by continually asking, “WHAT is this about?”
This morning my heart ached when I perused the front page of The New York Times. So many senseless deaths. So many hated related reactions. Anger hell bent on a target. But something shifted when I saw this headline: GEORGETOWN’S SLAVERY LEGACY, “Georgetown University’s president is trying to make amends for the school’s slavery past.”
Read the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/11/us/intent-on-a-reckoning-with-georgetowns-slavery-stained-past.html
You can read the details in the article. What matters to me is that I had no idea that a prominent University had a legacy with slavery–owning and selling. In the early 1800s, “…the college presidents at that time sold 272 slaves for about $3.3 million in today’s currency.” What a stunning piece of information! Just learning it lifted my heart a wee bit, because with knowledge comes power. The power to take positive, generative action. The descendants of Georgetown slaves say they want more than a pat on the head. There have been apologies, but no real amends that come with action. Until now. Check out the final three paragraphs from the article:
Jessica Tilson wanted something more. She asked Mr. DeGioia (Georgetown president) to issue a declaration of posthumous manumission, granting the slaves their freedom. Then she handed him several jars of soil.
She has been haunted in recent weeks by the knowledge that her great-great-great-great-grandparents died without returning to their birthplace in Maryland (near Georgetown). So she dug up soil from the old plantation— symbols of her enslaved forbears — and asked him to help her ancestors get back home.
Before he boarded his flight back to Washington (from Alabama), he shipped the jars to Georgetown.
I wonder if these small steps, gigantic to descendants of slaves, will help make a difference in the racial strife in our country. I’m not naïve enough to say it will change anything dramatically, but I do know that it is a beginning. And so I ask: What can I do today? The Prayer of St. Francis has been wafting through my mind. I invite you to take 2:42 to watch and listen as a way of making amends—to whomever, however or wherever.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace) – Sinead O’Connor