The Labyrinth of Rue is the title of a series of installations and performances by Birmingham and Atlanta white women between 1996 and 2002. 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, post in the status box on my timeline or comment on a link posted there. I respond to comments that show up in notifications. 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."
July 16, 2020. Best educational sum up I've seen, and it was on facebook.
July 16,2020 "If you are confused as to why so many Americans are defending the confederate flag, monuments, and statues right now, Jim Golden put together a quick Q&A, with questions from a hypothetical person with misconceptions and answers from his perspective as an AP U.S. History Teacher
Q: What did the Confederacy stand for?
A: Rather than interpreting, let's go directly to the words of the Confederacy's Vice President, Alexander Stephens. In his "Cornerstone Speech" on March 21, 1861, he stated "The Constitution... rested upon the equality of races. This was an error. Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
Q: But people keep saying heritage, not hate! They think the purpose of the flags and monuments are to honor confederate soldiers, right?
A: The vast majority of confederate flags flying over government buildings in the south were first put up in the 1960's during the Civil Rights Movement. So for the first hundred years after the Civil War ended, while relatives of those who fought in it were still alive, the confederate flag wasn't much of a symbol at all. But when Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis were marching on Washington to get the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965) passed, leaders in the south felt compelled to fly confederate flags and put up monuments to honor people who had no living family members and had fought in a war that ended a century ago. Their purpose in doing this was to exhibit their displeasure with black people fighting for basic human rights that were guaranteed to them in the 14th and 15th Amendments but being withheld by racist policies and practices.
Q: But if we take down confederate statues and monuments, how will we teach about and remember the past?
A: Monuments and statues pose little educational relevance, whereas museums, the rightful place for Confederate paraphernalia, can provide more educational opportunities for citizens to learn about our country's history. The Civil War is important to learn about, and will always loom large in social studies curriculum. Removing monuments from public places and putting them in museums also allows us to avoid celebrating and honoring people who believed that tens of millions of black Americans should be legal property.
Q: But what if the Confederate flag symbol means something different to me?
A: Individuals aren't able to change the meaning of symbols that have been defined by history. When I hang a Bucs flag outside my house, to me, the Bucs might represent the best team in the NFL, but to the outside world, they represent an awful NFL team, since they haven't won a playoff game in 18 years. I can't change that meaning for everyone who drives by my house because it has been established for the whole world to see. If a Confederate flag stands for generic rebellion or southern pride to you, your personal interpretation forfeits any meaning once you display it publicly, as its meaning takes on the meaning it earned when a failed regime killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in an attempt to destroy America and keep black people enslaved forever.
Q: But my uncle posted a meme that said the Civil War/Confederacy was about state's rights and not slavery?
A: "A state's right to what?" - John Green
Q: Everyone is offended about everything these days. Should we take everything down that offends anyone?
A: The Confederacy literally existed to go against the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the idea that black people are human beings that deserve to live freely. If that doesn't upset or offend you, you are un-American.
Q: Taking these down goes against the First Amendment and freedom of speech, right?
A: No. Anyone can do whatever they want on their private property, on their social media, etc. Taking these down in public, or having private corporations like NASCAR ban them on their properties, has literally nothing to do with the Bill of Rights.
Q: How can people claim to be patriotic while supporting a flag that stood for a group of insurgent failures who tried to permanently destroy America and killed 300,000 Americans in the process?
A: No clue.
Q: So if I made a confederate flag my profile picture, or put a confederate bumper sticker on my car, what am I declaring to my friends, family, and the world?
A: That you support the Confederacy. To recap, the Confederacy stands for: slavery, white supremacy, treason, failure, and a desire to permanently destroy Selective history as it supports white supremacy.
It’s no accident that:
You learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B, DuBois
You learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington.
You learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves.
You learned about black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street.
You learned about the New Deal, but not “red lining.”
You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals.
You learned about “black crime,” but white criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race.
You learned about “states rights” as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the articles of secession.
Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.
Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality.
You have a choice."
--from friend of Kris Leabo Light. Thanks Jim Golden.
Mayor Norwood, watering Labyrinth of Rue April 4, 1999
April 4, 2020: Facebook's algorithm's are amazing. A picture of Mary Norwood watering Rue plants April 4, 1999, popped up when I opened my computer yesterday. I had begun a letter the day before to my Congressman, John Lewis who is very ill and was before the virus. I want his blessing to have the Rue Bricks relaid along a Path for Pilgrimages of Repentance between Coretta and Dr. King's tomb and graves of men who died for the Lost Cause of slavery. I worked on the Rue Project from 1996 to 2002 in Atlanta.
I worked on the Rue Project from October 1996 until November 2, 2002
In Birmingham I had tried between 1990 and 1993 to develop the Children’s Service I’d worked on in 1987 as part of SCLC’s Celebration of Dr. King’s Birthday becoming a national holiday into an annual civic observation — for 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.
The image was of the adult and children's choirs from at least one black church and at least one white church, coming through the streets of downtown Birmingham,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 meet each white adult and child on the bridge crossing the pond, each little white child gives each black adult flowers of Rue (for repentance); each little black child gives the white adult flowers of Loosestrife (forgiveness). Then they 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.
July 5, 2020 My thinking has been changing since I wrote the above. See later.
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
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.
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