Text and Photos by Bernice Elizabeth Green
In May 2018, Rev. Taharka W. Robinson and his wife, Ms. Bianca Robinson, local Brooklyn leaders and founders of the “Rediscovering Lost Values” project — then in its 11th year — took eight Brooklyn students (ages 12 to 17) and their ten guardians on a journey through the battlegrounds and sacred spaces of The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Group members — of which Our Time Press was part — traveled to three states in three days and learned of The Struggle and The Triumphs, visited museums, walked in the footpaths of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We engaged in conversations with people from all walks of life: Miss Kim, a hotel culinary chef, the Communications Chief of the Equal Justice Institute, the Caretaker of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, who takes care of the church who took care of him. He shared that he was at work a few blocks away when “it” happened. He said that when he enlisted in the military and left Birmingham for a tour of duty in Vietnam, he took the memory of a family friend, one of the four girls murdered on a Sunday in September 1963 — with him. He has not let it go. He pointed to where the Sunday School lessons were taught and the railings they touched.
Many Black churches throughout the U.S. participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Now they face many structural and social challenges. On page 9 is a partial listing of historic churches and sacred spaces, including the 16th Street Baptist Church, that will receive National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Cultural Heritage Action Fund grants. The purpose of the grants announced on Martin Luther King Day, January 16th, is to keep the doors of these institutions open so that young people — like the two girls above, looking, four years ago, from the window of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute interpretive museum and research center to the 16th Street Baptist Church — can connect to their history.