Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Move That Boundary!

It’s there for a Reason

Deuteronomy 19:14
Don’t move your neighbor’s boundary markers, the longstanding landmarks set up by your pioneer ancestors defining their property.

There has been much debate over the removal of the name of Nathan Bedford Forest’s name from city parks in Memphis. He was a confederate General who led a massacre of a surrendered fort consisting of mostly black Union soldiers 40 miles outside of Memphis. The Mississippi River ran red with blood of men who had surrendered but were shot, burnt, and even buried alive at the orders of Nathan Bedford Forest. Forest was also credited with founding the Ku Klux Klan, a terrorist organization that would continue the fight against free blacks after the war, lynching, burning, and murdering those that got out of place.

Moving that boundary stone has upset many on both sides. Some city council members wanted to add the name of Ida B. Wells to the sign of a land previously dedicated to a man that hated and murdered her people. Ida B. Wells grew up in Holly Springs, MS and came to Memphis to teach to take care of her siblings. She became an prolific investigative journalist who wrote about the atrocities of lynching after three of her friends were taken out of jail and lynched for defending their successful grocery store. She was so devastated that she wrote that blacks should leave Memphis because it would never be safe for black people. In the late 1800’s, 6,000 people including Wells left Memphis.

I don’t think they should move the landmark of Nathan Bedford Forest, let it be a reminder of what happened in Memphis. If you want to set up a new boundary in tribute to Ida B. Wells, establish new boundaries with a unified School district. When Ida B. Wells came to work as a school teacher in Memphis she did so because in Holly Springs where she taught, white teachers made $80 a month while black teachers made $30 a month. In Memphis she found “more” equitable opportunities to teach.

This School merger is a way for residents of Shelby County to show where their boundaries are or where their hearts are. You can change the name of a park but you can’t change the nature of a boundary.

What are we really saying with these new districts or boundaries some of these schools districts are proposing? Why haven’t we gone on a national search for a new superintendent instead of imposing a local “Master” over the new “unified” school board?

Don’t move it, lets see if the new boundary resembles the old ones. Let’s see if we have made progress or are we still laying siege to an already surrendered people whose blood is not in the Mississippi River but instead runs down the streets of Memphis because of poverty, lack of opportunities, and lack of education.

When you find an ancient boundary study it, learn from it, then govern yourself accordingly so that you will not repeat any massacres. It’s there for a reason.

Dear God,

Help us to deal with our old boundaries that cover up past atrocities. Help us to create new boundaries that speak to where we want to go. Heal our wounds of past offenses and help us to create a city that speaks to the unity and diversity of a people who have heeded their boundaries but created new ones.

In Jesus Name,


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