Volume 12 Number 5
Walking Through History
01 October 1999
For a century African slaves were landed on the James River in Richmond, Virginia, marched across a bridge in the dead of night, and sold at the slave auctions next day. In June last year hundreds walked the same route, at night, seeking to understand the roots of racial divisions still troubling their city.
For a century African slaves were landed on the James River in Richmond, Virginia, marched across a bridge in the dead of night, and sold at the slave auctions next day. In June last year hundreds walked the same route, at night, seeking to understand the roots of racial divisions still troubling their city. Richmond's annual Unity Walk, recognizing such forgotten sites, is becoming a pattern for other cities.
Across another bridge, in Selma, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr led his people at the height of the civil rights struggle to register their right to vote. Last March, black and white joined the annual re-enactment. In what is described as 'a miracle for Selma', they are collaborating on housing projects.
In 1849, the Oregon Territorial Assembly passed an Exclusion Act, forbidding 'negroes and mulattos' to enter or reside in the State. In April, 150 years later, some 800 Oregonians--Native Americans, Asian, African, Hispanic, Caucasian--crowded into the House of Assembly for a 'Day of Acknowledgement'. Presented with a chronology of their State's racially-based laws (and those who fought to change them), they committed themselves 'to work towards full participation of racial minorities in all aspects of Oregon's life'.
Two weeks later at Uluru (Ayer's Rock), the monolith at the heart of Australia, representatives of the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children from each state and territory received painted 'music sticks' from the elders of 'the rock'. On the first anniversary of National Sorry Day, those music sticks were used in ceremonies to launch a Journey of Healing across the country, reaching out to Aboriginal people and communities affected by the forced removal of children under policies of assimilation (see Aug/Sept FAC).
These were some of the processes described at Caux, of people 'walking through history' to face injustices and generate the community will for change.
As George Trevorrow of the Ngarrindjeri people of Australia remarked, 'Some people say history must be put behind us. But if you don't know a people's history, how can you get to any deeper level of conversation with them?' Trevorrow grew up in squalid 'fringe camps' when Aboriginals had no citizenship rights in the land of their ancestors. He and his family have founded a 'race relations and reconciliation camp' to which 5,000 school students come each year to study indigenous heritage and history.