Community Remembrance Project of the Equal Justice Initiative
Emerson’s Support for the Remembrance Project
The Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church has formally supported Harris County’s involvement with the Equal Justice Initiative’s “Community Remembrance Project” in conjunction with the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
In January 2019 Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange gave a sermon to our congregation about the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the National Memorial. Her sermon moved several members of Emerson, Kenny Jones, Michael Bloom, Carol Trout, and Victor Anwar to participate in planning meetings convened by Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis to move forward with the Harris County Community Remembrance Project.
The Harris County Community Remembrance Project is the local effort to implement EJI’s national campaign to recognize the victims of racial terror lynching that occurred between 1877 and 1950 by collecting soil from lynching sites and erecting historical markers to acknowledge the horrors of racial injustice. Our members support the Harris County Community Remembrance Project because it aligns with our guiding principles and our desire for justice.
The local effort compliments EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery Alabama, which was featured in Becky’s sermon. The National Memorial is constructed of over 800 Corten steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where at least one documented racial terror lynching took place.
The names of the documented lynching victims are engraved on the monuments.
“Public acknowledgement of mass violence is essential not only for victims and survivors, but also for perpetrators and bystanders who suffer from trauma and damage related to their participation in systematic violence and dehumanization.” EJI.org
In a September 2019 letter to the Harris County Judge and Commissioners, the Emerson congregation again expressed strong support for the proposal to convert the downtown property in front of the Family Law Center and adjacent to Quebedeaux Park to green space and the installation of the EJI Markers acknowledging four Harris County victims: John Walton, John White, Robert Powell, and Bert Smith (aka Birl, Berl, Burl, and Birt).
As a result of our work (and others), the Harris County Commissioners Court voted unanimously on September 10, 2019 to approve the placement of historical markers for the four victims of racial lynching. During the public meeting Commissioner Ellis explicitly thanked our congregation for our support of the initiative. A 6-minute video of his remarks is available at this link.
On October 10, 2020, Commissioner Ellis spoke at the kickoff for Emerson’s Stewardship campaign, describing the link between the stunning memorial in Montgomery and the individual monuments to be installed in Quebedeaux Park. Commissioner Ellis asked that we share the link to this eloquent TED talk by the architect, Michael Murphy