Dexter Avenue Baptist Bricks

Nancy Flynn Arts & Culture, History Lessons, Stream of Consciousness Archive

Photo by Chris Pruitt

Coretta Scott King’s funeral today. Six hours. Orations, presidents, standing ovations for truth tellers. Every now and then, the waters of justice and earnestness break through. We are talking about a woman who, five days after her husband’s funeral went back to Memphis, where he’d been murdered, to march with the striking “I Am a Man” sanitation workers. A place we just visited, walked the streets. We are talking not your typical housewife. No empty feminist rhetoric for her.

Here in my life of Oregon ease-and-exultation, I put on old-time gospel, a fitting tribute but, still, nothing that holds a candle to Reverend Lowry or Bill Clinton earlier today. I do, however, have a shard. In the Roseville bowl (magnolia pattern, formerly G’s, left behind, actually given to me, flotsam of that debacle) along with shards of china, ballast from the slave ships heading into port in the island of Nevis, a small triangle, almost like an arrowhead really: a piece of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

No one but J. would know that this artifact is what it is, picked up that rainy January day 2005 from the sidewalk after talking with the woman who gave us our tour of this famous, important, humble, beatified church. The tour, if it can be called that, was the two of us and her and her gift, of knowledge, presence, witness to us. I guess January is an off month for corporate conferences and white folks retracing the steps of the Civil Rights movement in Alabama.

But here, now, today, Oregon, United States, with criminals at the helm, and the ship of state sinking almost as fast as the Titanic, I have my tiny brick shard. The Italians, for one, know such relics matter. This bit of matter heard Rev. Dr. King’s speech—rallying the non-violent foot soldiers, many of us really—way back when, the day before I was born, 5 December 1955. The piece I gathered, memento of our momentous visit, has a sharp, pointed tip.

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