Sometimes I find it hard to commit to a wall calendar for the new year. Do I want nature scenes or puppies? Funny or inspirational? Photographs or drawings? Once I’ve made a decision, I’m stuck with it for 12 months, so I tend to agonize a bit over the choice. (Hence the reason I don’t yet have a tattoo!)
This year there wasn’t a difficult decision.
A couple of weeks ago I received in the mail from the Equal Justice Initiative the gift of a wall calendar. There are photographs, but they’re not the humorous kind. They document the struggles for racial justice in the United States.
The photograph for January is of a group of African Americans standing at river’s edge. The caption reads, “Black church members gathered for a baptism at a river in Columbus, Missouri are required to wait for white church members to complete their baptisms at the same river.”
There is no room to add my own appointments to this calendar. Instead, on each day’s space there is a statement about an episode of racial injustice which happened on that day. For today, January 8, the statement reads, “1811: Largest slave insurrection in U.S. history begins in Louisiana Territory; after their defeat, many of the 500 rebelling slaves are mutilated, decapitated, and burned alive.”
There are no words.
Author, lawyer, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson says that ordinary citizens can confront racial injustice and change the world if they dare to get proximate to the issues – to get close so that we can see and hear what we can’t from a distance – to go to where the suffering is. He reminds us that that’s what Jesus did.
For me, this year, one of the ways I’m getting closer to the issue of racial injustice is to use this wall calendar. The pictures are not cute. They aren’t amusing. But they are honest.