Members of the DeKalb Remembrance Committee have spent months planning ways to recognize lynchings that occurred in the county, and honor those affected. They even attended training to ensure that difficult conversations about racism throughout history, and even today, would be constructive and productive.
Now, they are ready to go public. A kickoff event will be held Wednesday evening.
The Interfaith Commemoration Service is the launch of what the committee is calling “A Journey of Remembrance and Reconciliation.” In the coming days and weeks, the committee will also host podcasts, sponsor symposiums and curate art exhibits.
The series of events will culminate with the unveiling of markers in downtown Decatur and Lithonia acknowledging the three known lynchings that took place in DeKalb County. Dates in early 2020 are being considered for the unveilings.
Here is an overview of the events and activities scheduled thus far, all of which are free and open to the public, unless designated otherwise:
- The Interfaith Commemoration Service is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the DeKalb History Center, which is located inside the Historic Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square in downtown Decatur. It will feature a community choir, as well as faith leaders and public officials acknowledging the impact of racial terrorism.
- Dr. Akinyele Umoja, a professor of African-American Studies at Georgia State University, will give a lecture on Wednesday entitled, “Reparations: Should America Pay?” The event is part of Georgia State’s Constitution Day and will begin at 2:30 p.m. at the Decatur Campus, 3251 Panthersville Road, in Building SF Room 2100-2101.
- Emory University’s Candler School of Theology is presenting a symposium entitled “Bearing Witness: Faith, Remembrance and the Journey Toward Social Justice” on Saturday. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Decatur First United Methodist Church, 300 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. Panelists include author and activist Austin Channing Brown and Hank Klibanoff, a journalist, author and host of the “Buried Truths” podcast.
- “Recollections: DeKalb, Georgia’s Legacy of Hate and Hope” is a podcast curated by students at Agnes Scott College that will consist of interviews with DeKalb residents who lived through the Jim Crow era and segregation. It is scheduled for release in October.
- DeKalb County adults and high school students are encouraged to enter the Remembrance Project Artist Competition. Entries must be original art that address the lynchings in DeKalb, related social issues or the importance of future generations remembering the impact of racial terrorism. Any medium is acceptable, and entries are due by Jan. 20. More information is on the NAACP website.
- The Remembrance Committee will be collecting soil at lynching locations to display at the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also known as the lynching memorial, in Montgomery. Because the exact location of the lynchings in Redan and Lithonia are unknown, the committee will gather dirt from the center of those communities. However, news reports identified the address where Porter Turner, a cab driver killed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1945, was found. The current home owner has agreed to allow Turner’s family to hold a private soil collection ceremony there.
- The city of Lithonia is planning to sponsor a trip to Montgomery for city leaders and others to present the soil from DeKalb lynching sites to the EJI. That trip will take place in October or November.
- The county, NAACP and EJI are working together to finalize language that will be included on the two identical lynching markers. DeKalb County has signed off on its marker being placed outside the current courthouse in downtown Decatur, and the Lithonia City Council said its marker will be located near its downtown. Dates in February, March and April are being considered for the unveiling of the markers. There may also be a third marker in Druid Hills, where Turner died.
- When the lynching memorial was created, replicas were made of each of the 800 steel monuments that recognize the counties and states where lynchings occurred. Eventually, the EJI will allow communities represented to retrieve their replica and display it locally. Once that becomes possible, DeKalb plans to display its replica outside the county courthouse. The EJI has not said when it will outline its process for allowing communities to retrieve their replica monuments.
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