Day 6: The Moment We Were Transformed
Today is Day 6 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today, reflect upon the 50th anniversary of the 24th Amendment and the implications for democracy in this country. Think about the many ways in which voting rights are being denied today. How can you be part of making sure everyone has the right to vote? Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
We’ve all heard people say, “It was a transformational experience.” Maybe you’ve said it yourself. The question that we like to ask ourselves when we feel that way is “What I have been transformed to do?” In 2008, our lives were changed – we were transformed – when we decided to go on a Civil Rights Tour led by the Rev. Dr. Gordon Gibson and his wife Judy. This tour was a partnership with Meadville-Lombard Theological School in Chicago, so we stepped on the bus in Chicago and drove south to Memphis and then on through Mississippi and Alabama. This was not like any other trip we’d been on. It was not a tour in any sense of the word. Sure, we visited museums and historical sites – and were moved by what we saw there. But that’s not where the transformation happened. It happened as we met person after person who had put their lives on the line to secure the right to vote for all.
We were transformed by Hollis Watkins, a county organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi who during one of his many arrests was shown a noose and told he would be hung that night. We were transformed by Joanne Bland, who joined the Movement at eleven years old and was chased by police on horses off the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what’s come to be known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. We were transformed by Angela Lewis, the daughter of slain civil rights worker, James Chaney, who holds love, not bitterness, in her heart for his killers.
Before we even returned to Chicago, we approached Gordon and Judy, who themselves chose a ministry in Mississippi in the 1960s to live out their commitment to justice and equity. “How could we help,” we asked them, “to keep this experience alive?” Out of that question, that moment when being transformed meant we had to act, the Living Legacy Project was born. Since that time, hundreds of people, UUs and people of all faiths, have participated in the Living Legacy Pilgrimage and other experiential learning opportunities (including an upcoming partnership with the UU College of Social Justice for a multigenerational journey to Mississippi this summer), which are designed to deepen understanding of the Civil Rights Movement by visiting the sites where it happened and talking with the people who lived it.
Today, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the 24th Amendment, which prohibits both Congress and the states from requiring people to pay a poll tax or any other type of tax to vote in federal elections. At the same time, we also recognize that we are facing the most severe threats to voting rights we have seen since the 24th Amendment was ratified.
What will you do to assure that the people who worked tirelessly, who gave up their freedom, and in some cases, their lives to secure the right to vote, did not do so in vain? What actions will you take in your state to resist the voter suppression laws that are making it harder and harder for people to vote? What has your faith transformed you to do?
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The Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, NY
Dr. Janice Marie Johnson is the Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director for the UUA
Annette Marquis is the LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director for the UUA