Montgomery, Alabama Pilgrimages, Zoom Storytelling Talk here
I returned in late September for a third pilgrimage to Montgomery. The word pilgrimage is chosen intentionally. It implies leaving home and all familiar. It connotes intention of some moral or spiritual dimension, and a great openness to learning. This is the fourth writing to explore my Montgomery pilgrimages.
During my first moments in Montgomery in 2019, I met Tracey Browder, photograph included with her permission here upper right. The Browder family owns the small Airbnb where I stayed that first trip. Upon arriving I asked Tracey
“So are you from Montgomery?”
“Oh no,” she said in clear northern diction, “I grew up in Colorado, been in Atlanta a long while. But I came back to support my father Chap in his prison ministry.”
“Interesting,” I responded, “I meditate with incarcerated men back home, have for years.”
“Well you should come in and join us!”
And so I spent half of one of my three days in Montgomery traveling to Easterling prison with Chap, Tracey, Sister Alphabet, and a host of others doing their ministry.
I remained in touch with the family these years, and returned in May 2021 in response to Tracey’s repeated urging, “When you coming back?” I stayed with them in the spring, and then just returned for the unveiling of the Mother’s of Gynecology Monument, created by Michelle Browder, the middle sister of this extraordinary family that has gently adopted me into their fold. They have a wide fold these folx. On Tuesday November 2nd, I’ll share storytelling from these visits. While I’ll focus the storytelling on Michelle’s powerful artistry, she is one expression of the Browder’s ministry of caring for the human family. That love and power are expressed through a horse farm, a volunteer-staffed thrift store known to many as the Black mall (which hosts regular community food giveaways), a residential veteran’ home for women. Here is a 2 min video about the Mother’s Monument I went back to witness unveiled in late September and an excellent Washington Post article published just after the unveiling.
Delta was surging in the weeks leading up to my departure; Alabama’s ICU beds at 140% of capacity. Several of my own family members implored me not to go, asking “couldn’t I send a donation.” There are some kinds of healing necessary in this country, borne of our bloody, enslaving, genocidal history, which I believe require our bodies and nervous systems to be in space together. In that witnessing, small steps are taken. Awareness and understanding expands. The healing ripples outward.