This past year, I have made the somber journey to bear witness to lynchings and other undertakings of racial terror in America (including visiting the site where the photo used in this story took place: I Came To Bear Witness To A Lynching. Part 1: Duluth). I have toured this nation to tell the stories of the victims of these acts of annihilation primarily perpetrated by white men against mostly black men. Each site is different. The soil, the air, and the way the sunlight hits the ground are all different. There is no common denominator between these scenes of depravity, except that a black person lost their life at each one.
I have held vigils at these forsaken places. I have perceived the faint screams of justice enveloped in the breeze. I have stared into the horizon at these desecrated sites, and with my peripheral vision, I have seen the anguish visible in the fauna and foliage.
Does death vanquish the quest for justice, or is it incumbent upon the living to carry the torch to illuminate the transgressions of the past?
Every time I made the pilgrimage to a lynching venue, I prepared myself by quieting my mind. I composed myself to become a vessel. I opened myself up to the surroundings, and I tried to recreate what this place looked like when the black person was being coerced, through violence, to the spot of their eventual destruction.
I center myself every time I visit one of these beacons of racial hatred—these unholy places that scar our nation. Many exist in the open without any symbol, sign, or totem commemorating that a man or woman was lynched there. I breathe in the air, trying to become one with these environs, and feel the vibrations of evil that we have foolishly described as unspeakable.
Lynchings were not unspeakable acts of racial hatred; they were acts of racial hatred that we refuse to speak about. Some were coerced to remain silent through threats of murder and rape. Others knew they would be isolated or ostracized if they gave voice to the horror committed. Our communities were terrorized and forced into a foreboding silence because of these acts of brutality committed by the powerful and propertied.