Old white southern lady (81) on Renouncing the Lost Cause of White Supremacy to which I was raised, deeply enthralled and narrowly escaped with a little help from my friends. The Labyrinth of Rue is the title of an art process with which I was involved from 1996 to 2002. I'm adding images and text from that, related texts and images from before and since, and exchanges with friends on facebook that continue the process. The public police execution of George Floyd performed before police trainees and bystanders, one of whom filmed it, sharpens the imperative that WE (White Europeans) acknowledge and pay the price of reparations for centuries of violent extraction of wealth from POC (People of Color). For the present, and if you are willing, please participate by posting or commenting on the facebook group Woman's Work Goes On; or if you are not a member of the group on my timeline: Peggy Powell Dobbins.
It is a one mile walk from the tomb of Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King
to the graves that surround the Confederate Memorial
erected in the middle of Oakland Cemeteryby the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association(ALMA) in 1866.
In 1999, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter
fell on April 4, the day Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.
That year, a dozen white Southern women, including 2
members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, planted
"A Labyrinth of Rue for pil-
grim ages to repent
For sons and sweethearts who'd been sent to die, and too, to kill.
For evil is dead spirit's face refusing death until buried with dignity and grace.
Yet grace awaits them still. For grace awaits repentence for the sins that purchase pride and dignity now, as before, the sin filled price denied.
A Maze engraves how swains 'tho sons to slaves are wrought by greed. Renounce and lose but naught to save thy soul, Repair thy creed."
June 6, 2020 facebook exchange under image of Confederate monument being torn down in Birmingham
Charles Frederick I think there should be a penny campaign like there was for the statue of liberty base, for school children to contribute towards to pay the illicit fine
Peggy Powell Dobbins that was sort of my initial thought. did you see it on Thanasis Nicolau page? The way you put it is M U C H better. You might be interested to learn, as I was, that my son (white) who still lives in Birmingham thinks keeping reminders of how bad w…See More Charles Frederick Peggy Powell Dobbins just shows how much work we have to do with the public education system. They have reproduced white supremacy over every available point of cultural production. (I did not see this elsewhere. The idea must--like many at the moment-- be in the air.) Peggy Powell DobbinsCharles Frederick, yep. I really want to get those Rue bricks [rubrics] I engraved for the Labyrinth of Rue <http://peggydobbins.net/labyrinthofrue.html> white women fromAtlanta and Birmingham laid to acknowledge "the sins that purchased [their] pride and dignity" etc. , but were removed by naive racists after the mayor changed, relaid before I die. I want to imagine archeologists finding them a few centuries hence. I feel selfish wanting to stay focussed on that effort now, even tho I know the cultural journey to freedom from white supremacy includes white us women consciously renouncing (I think that term is accurate, not sure) what they must (the list of what Amy knew she could get away with calling 911 on the black guy who asked her to leash her dog). Just venting to someone I think will understand, not asking you to do white woman's work. Charles Frederick Ah, the day when the comprehensive, truthful history about every one can be told, because the complex human story is the only one worth telling--but hopefully it can include: once upon a time, the earth was full of warring nation states, each with a different myth of origin, hurting with error, and in the iron grip of the ancient controls of patriarchy, and the bewildering changing tales of classes in "rightful" unequal order, and the massive existential falsehood of there being different "races" with a natural ontology based on something which had no evidence of existing at all. Come, children, listen to how, this wild tale almost brought us all to our termination, our disappearance (even the memory of us) from existence. Peggy Powell DobbinsCharles Frederick 😍🦹♂️🦹♀️👏👏👏👘🐘. so couldn't find perfect emoji for beloved Griot. And I want the children to be bringing the bricks to him to help them decipher.
In 1999, April 4, the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, fell on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. 1999 marked 2000 years of Christian meditation linking crucifixion to resurrection.
That year, 12 white Southern women from Birmingham and Atlanta planted a Labyrint of Rue, for pilgrimages of repentance just inside the gate of Oakland Cemetery, where the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association, precursor of the Daughters of the Confederacy had obtained permission from the Union Army to rebury soldiers killed in the Battle of Atlana in 1864
April 4, 2020: Facebook's algorithm's are amazing. Pic of Mary watering Rue plants 1999 showed up when I opened my computer yesterday. I had begun a letter to Congressman Lewis who was very ill before the virus hit, the day before, asking for his blessing to have the Rue Bricks relaid along a path for pilgrimages of repentance from reflecting pond around the the tomb of Coretta and Martin King to confederate graves a mile away. I worked on the Rue Project from 1996 to 2002 in Atlanta.
In Birmingham I had tried between 1990 and 1993 to organise what Del Hamilton told me is called a "civic ritual performance" on the Sunday of Labor Day closest to September 15, the day Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were murdered in 1963. I envisioned the adult and children's choirs from at least one black church and at least one white church, coming through the streets singing stanzas of Amazing Grace in call and response, to meet at the foot washing pond in Kelly Ingram Park, across from 16th Baptist Church where the children were killed.
As each black adult and child met each white adult and child on the bridge crossing the pond, I saw the little white children giving the black adults flowers of Rue (for repentance); the little black children giving the white adults Loosestrife (forgiveness). Then they'd re-pair, black and white children, black and white adults to finish the pilgrimage down the walk, across the street, into 16th St Baptist Church for an ecumenical ceremony along the lines I had had success organizing for children in 1987. No one ever opposed my effort to enlist the choirs to realise my vision. But I never succeeded.
We moved to Berkeley in '93 and came back South in 1996, when in trying to convince Glenda Minkin to help, I'd noted 'while Catholics have confession, Jews's highest holy day is for atonement, and Muslims devote a whole month to repentance, the only ritual path provided in the religion of white protestant slave owners and their heirs is 'the general confession', so general it covers everything from forgetting to write a thank you note to throwing your fellow humans into the bowels of a ship to survive in their urine and faces. (Episcopal prayer book -- my father's side. My mother's side, Presbyterian predestination is even better adapted to guilt denial) Glenda, who is Jewish replied not exactly in these words, but this is the import I recall, "Peggy, when you enter the path of Atonement, there is no guarantee you will be forgiven, and certainly no little white gal who just wanted to be part of The Movement is going to choreograph when and how black people choose to forgive."
So, I set out to find a path to confess the racism I'd recognised in myself and express repentance for the fruits of racism I continue to receive as racism continues to mutate; and to get other white southern women I knew who'd made efforts to free themselves from racism to join me. Instead of competing with each other to prove how anti-racist we were to our black friends, we would make a path for other whites to admit and renounce racism by admitting and renouncing our own.
I did not have making Reparation on my mind. I think that tells how far I still had and have yet to go. It merely opened my heart to the need for it and that it was not for me to say how, when or whether.
And I do not think I am alone. Commitment to anti-racism is not the same as being freed from racism if you're white, any more than winning victories against racism frees you from being a victim of racism if you're black. The most making a pilgrimage of rue, ie of repentance, can do is "renounce the sins that purchase pride and dignity NOW as before," by quiting denying that they are sins,ie confession. and try to repair one's soul by repairing the consequences of greed that the old creed justified, minimised, and overlooked as easily as an unwritten thank you.
Maybe it's about time I think of Reparations as long overdue I.O.U. thank you notes. Taking note of some specifics of what for, for rather far more than "a lovely evening. the charlotte russe was to die for" Renoucing precludes erasing. And if you erase, you can never repair.
My son gave me Coates' book of essays a couple of Christmases ago (2018) It's still on my bedstand. Not because I revisit it frequently, but because I barely skimmed it and think I should It included his 2014 essay in the Atlantic on Reparations. People often cite it. I just clicked and skimmed that again.
I joined C.U.R.E.(Caucasians United for Reparation and Emancipation) on-line for a few years after the big 2002 Pilgrimage of Rue that ended in the ecumenical ceremony at the Ebenezer Baptist Church that is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Saudia Muwwakkil helped us get permission to hold the ceremony there. She was still employed by the National Park Service to do public relations for the center.It meant a lot to La Donna Smith who composed a Chorale for Repentence to premier it there. Her Chorale includes the verse I added to Amazing Grace. That meant a lot to me. More than half the participants in the pilgrimage walk were members of the Birminhgam Women's Chorus that La Donna leads.
This essay from the pespective of black children of white children's mammies hit me, inescapably, as neither Coates nor CURE had. Whether or not anything I add here proves moving or insightful to anyone who happens upon it, the best lesson I recommend taking from it, I was taught by Marion Woods, Black Preacher's Wife to Birmingham SCLC chair, Dr. Abraham Woods. It's well known and practiced by all good organizers, but as an organizee rather than organizer, I recommend tracing the methodology to black preachers' wives. "If you want people to show up, give them a role to perform." That's why there are so many choirs at Movement rallies.
When I was growing up, white in the South (Texas, Ark, La, 1938 - 68) my primary positive bond with African-Americans was with black women who cooked and cleaned for white women and helped care for their children. I'm sure that was true of every white I knew. I may come back and insert examples.
updated June 6, 2020 Now quarantining in Indianola, TX Please feel free to use anything here and I'll be honored if you do but please include a link to peggydobbins.net