One thing you’ll notice at women’s blogger conferences, is the impressive decibel level.
This isn’t a statement on women’s behavior, our verbal proficiency or the often hard, reverberating surfaces found in conference settings. It’s because you have a gathering of women with voices and the blogs to prove it. Voices that share our daily lives with each other. Voices that years ago had no depository for expression. Voices that decades ago were silenced and unwelcomed. Now, dang it!, we’ve got voices and we’re using them!
Yesterday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. He is the source and symbol of the voice of freedom. As I watched a special on him and the marches in the south, I felt pride for my uncle who marched with Dr. King and who, at 87, still runs a ‘peace fellowship’ that generates grants for teaching peaceful solutions. I love that heritage.
I don’t love the heritage that I witnessed today at the brand new exhibit in the National Underground Railroad FREEDOM CENTER. Entitled “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America,” this profound exhibit gives a voice to the thousands of victims of lynching’s in the U.S., particularly in the 1890′s. (Like this map of the number of lynchings between 1882 – 1968.)
The voice is eerie and disturbing. The voice is haunting and brings me to tears as I write this. It is powerful and (did I mention?) disturbing. If this exhibit doesn’t cause that response, nothing will. Photos and postcards, stories and news articles share the horrific images and accounts of mainly African-American men who were tortured and murdered witnessed by groups of three to 10,000. Focusing on the 1890’s, ‘the Lynching Era,’ the exhibit displays this terrible heritage where sadism, torture and murder became public theatre. I warned you, it’s disturbing. (Which is why they are strongly cautioning parents and caregivers that the images of Without Sanctuary may be too intense for children.) It’s a very ugly time in American history.
I had the opportunity to talk with Dina Bailey, the curator of this exhibit, about the stories involving women. Again, disturbing. Dozens of women were lynched for accusations, being related to men who were targeted or just in the vicinity of an assumed activity. On the other side, women often attended the lynchings as if invited to a social gathering and even wore their best outfits and had their photos taken with the victims and crowds of onlookers. It a terrifying legacy of the hate crimes that still take place today – often targeting women who are silenced.
“We must remember, because if the world forgets evil, evil is reborn.” W.E.B. DuBois
How does this ‘inspire women’ – as we strive to do here at Girlfriendology? For one, it reminds to be thankful that we have a voice. It causes us to pause and feel for the women (and men) in history and even now are silenced. As mothers and leaders in our community, it challenges us to remain strong, to share these lessons so that we never repeat them and inspires us to open our ears to the voices of victims. As someone who covers her eyes for ‘minimal violence’ in movies, I had to look away from the images at times but I know I shouldn’t shut my eyes to important lessons and to this legacy, be it ever so disturbing. In inspires me to know the past so it does not repeat.
“Let’s work together to rescue ourselves and our children from the fate of becoming bystanders in a world without sanctuary.” Thee Smith
A woman stated, in the Martin Luther King special on PBS last night, “I don’t know if we’d had a movement if we hadn’t sung together.” I love that. To hear and respond to the voice of freedom. Like the women bloggers, I love that we women have a voice and can use it to unite, share, inspire and hopefully make our world better together.
So girlfriends, if you’re in or can get to Cincinnati between now and May 31st, I highly recommend this “Without Sanctuary” exhibit at the National Underground Railroad FREEDOM CENTER. You will be disturbed as you ‘hear’ the voices of those who did not deserve their terrible fate. But hopefully you, like me, can live with being uncomfortable and saddened by this horrific legacy. It will cause you to think, to explore your emotions and prejudices, and will make you hopefully more vocal when it comes to standing up for others and for making sure the voices of victims are heard and the legacy we leave our children is one of awareness and responsibility for a better future.
National Underground Railroad FREEDOM CENTER, Cincinnati OH
“Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America” exhibit – January 19 – May 31, 2010
Note: The exhibit offers respite and reflection in an area at the end of the display that encourages visitors to explore their emotions and thoughts. It is a peaceful setting that allows you to write your thoughts, record them on video and share them on a whiteboard. It was a nice way to process the emotions stirred by this powerful exhibit.
Disclosure: I was invited to attend a sneak preview of the event by members of the Center’s communications team. This is my own opinion. Here are two other excellent reviews of the exhibit by my friends Michael and David.