Speak Their Names-How Montgomery Reignited My Commitment to Education Activism

Our mothers. Our husbands. Our daughters. Our sons. Our brothers. Our sisters. Our people.

Stolen.Terrorized. Beaten. Maimed. Imprisoned. Raped. Tortured. Burned. Hung. Shot. Sold.

Fear. Power. Control. Profit.

Our mothers. Our husbands. Our daughters. Our sons. Our brothers. Our sisters. Our people.

Pain. Faith. Strength. Hope. Love. Sacrifice. Wisdom. Protection.

I stood in Montgomery, Alabama inside of a converted warehouse that is now the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. It sits steps away from one of the most active slave auction sites in the United States. The warehouse was used to imprison African American men, women, and children waiting to be sold. Men, women and children who were torn apart from their families. As I stood, and walked, and read, and listened, coherent thoughts escaped me. All I could do was feel. All that came to me were tears and single words.

There are rows of jars holding dirt and soil collected at the sites of known lynchings-public acts of murder by white mobs in the 1800s and early 1900s. Approximately 160 jars lined the shelves. Each jar’s label shows the date and name of a person who had been murdered on that piece of earth. Something in my soul, the blood of my culture, provoked me into action. I knew that I needed to speak each person’s name, to call each spirit forward and then in Spanish acknowledged their presence by whispering, presente. This ceremony allowed me accept the power of the pain and destruction that was inflicted and received there. Speaking each name is a promise to them and their future ancestors.

Still. Our African American men, women and children are being killed. Imprisoned. Our educational system continues to systematically fail…the odds of high school diploma stacked against our African American and Latino males. Just two weeks ago I was in juvenile hall and saw mostly black and brown faces watching as a I walked past.

The first week of October found me in Montgomery. This capital city is engaged in a visceral conflict between its pride in being the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and its pride in being the capital of the confederacy. It speaks to the conflicts that are currently dividing our Country. I was invited to Montgomery by La Comadre to participate in the Education Post Summit. Education Post has created a national network of education reformers who are parents, teachers and students demanding equity and excellence in education, especially for our African American and Latino youth. These are warriors fighting for the promise of our country that all men and women are created equal and deserving of equal treatment under the law. This includes the right for all students to have a high quality public education. These warriors are fighting to hold our educational systems accountable at risk of their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

Together we visited the EJI Museum and then The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The memorial is a six acre space where columns hang and are laid on the ground. On these metal columns are etched the names of those murdered by lynching between 1877 and 1950. These names represent people. Families. Fathers. Sons. Husbands. Wives. Mothers. Daughters. Over 4,400 souls are memorialized here.

Metal column hanging at the EJI National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

It was no mistake that I shared this experience with this group of warriors who have dedicated their lives from keeping more names placed on jar or etched on columns. As an educational leader working within the juvenile justice system I am committed to serving those served students pushed out of the traditional system. As I shared space with these warriors, I realized that I haven’t been using my voice through La Comadre to its capacity. I left Montgomery, and my new group of colleagues, ready to explode with truth. Together we stand to end racism, hatred, and division that murders our people. Together we will prevail.

To these warriors….I write your name. I speak your name. I do this to honor your ancestors. I do this to lift you and the work you do for our youth. I do this to protect you. I stand with you, behind you, in front of you, wherever you need me in this fight. On behalf of my ancestors and our future ancestors, I thank you.

Cindy Borbon
Alma Vivian Marquez
Keri Rodrigues
Seth Saavedra
Vesia Hawkins
Gwen Addy Samuel
Taneesha Rae Peeples
Nehemia D. Frank
Sharif-El Mekki
Gordon Wright
Valentina Korkes
Lane Wright
Laura Waters
Zachary Wright
Garris L. Stroud
Maureen Kelleher
Jason B. Allen
Erika Graham Sanzi
Ikhlas Saleem
Rob Samuelson
ShaRhonda Knott Dawson
Chyrise Harris

For more information on the EJI Museum and Memorial https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/
For more information on Education Post and to follow these warriors http://educationpost.org/
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Marisol Rerucha

Marisol Rerucha

Marisol Quevedo Rerucha is a passionate mother of women, Chicana, educational leader, creator, writer, and advocate. She lives in San Diego, California where she and her husband Daniel raised their three daughters (Camerina, Emilia, and Sophia) and first held their granddaughter (Isabella Luna). Marisol was a middle and high school English teacher, an elementary school assistant principal and principal, an alternative charter high school director, and leads the career technical education and career readiness programs for youth in juvenile court and community schools. She also serves as an inter-State Board Member for a charter high school system in Colorado focused on personalized learning, and on the UNIDOS US National Institute for Latino School Leaders Alumni Council.

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