The Spirits of the Lynched

By Dwight L. Wilson, originally posted to Facebook on October 3, 2021

I have been a social activist since my first marches before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In this week alone, I was involved in on-going projects in separate cities with police oversight, warrant resolution, and public health; in the county I worked on environmental protection; nationwide with responsible gun control.

Yesterday I participated in a multicultural group that read a portion of the names of those who have been lynched in this country. The victims were babies, young children, teenagers, women and men. They came from various races because hatred and vigilantism in America has othered blacks, whites, Asians, Latinx and Indigenous peoples. Some folks believe if none of their ancestors was lynched, they are not affected. Wrong. As a small boy, one of my uncles lost his father when, in a racist environment ,his unarmed Daddy was killed in Kentucky. There was never a trial for the known killer. Who might my uncle have been if his father had lived to influence his growth and his beloved mother had not been forced to raise five children by herself?

After reading my section of the names of the lynched I wrote the following psalm.

In the name of righteousness, we offer this psalm
and pause to read the names of the lynched.
Their names are as light as atoms turned flesh,
as heavy as semi-trucks on an infant’s back.
You loved them as dearly as those who escaped
never knowing that they too were targeted.
Forgive us when we forget we are designed
for peaceful lives where safety surrounds us
and breeches break the love-covenant with You.
Help us make atonement by changing
this tainted nation’s false narrative.
Truth proves liberty is for some and justice
is reduced to a grammar school spelling word.
We remember the spirits of the lynched
so that they may live through those of us
who resist all things unacceptable,
and we are calling out the murderers
as well as spectators who stand quietly
as though neutrality is possible
when lives are dishonored by neighbors.
Let the healing begin with this gesture
May painful yesterday’s justice denied
be seeded with today’s commitment
to love our neighbors as You demand.

Throughout his career, Dwight L. Wilson is a Quaker who has held many jobs: educator, administrator, religious leader. In each role, he worked to advance equality, opportunity and understanding. He continues this work in his carefully researched historical fiction series Esi Was My Mother, which follows the lives of an enslaved black family from 18th century Africa to the American Civil War. He strives to portray triumphant examples of black stories that will make history come alive for readers. He is also author of two short story collections, The Kidnapped and The Resistors as well as a memoir centered on caring for children, Whispering to Babies and two psalms books: Modern Psalms In Search of Peace and Justice and Modern Psalms of Solace and Resistance.

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