The Social Justice Task Force (SJTF) organized a group of nearly 30 members from around Grace Presbytery in a Hidden History Tour of Dallas on March 25. The tour took members through Dallas, looking at the city through the history, filter, and experience of African Americans. Sites included the Freedman’s Cemetery, life-size sculpture tributes to four African Americans, the home and story of Juanita Craft, and the legacy of the Bottoms Neighborhood.
“I grew up in Dallas, in Oak Cliff, to be exact. I was surprised to learn about how the expansion of Fair Park and then the construction of highways disrupted life and bisected communities in such a powerful way… driving through part of the 10th Street Historic District and recalling the Mile of Tragedy brought history to life. I strongly recommend this tour,” said Sheryl Taylor, Emmanuel Presbyterian, Bedford.
In addition to history specific to Dallas, the Hidden History tour was able to show how state-level systematic racism led to the development of the city.
“As a relatively new resident of the state, I was shocked to learn that in the 19th century the state leaders provided free land to white residents of the south and east if they would relocate to Texas. This system has further perpetrated disparities of wealth between whites and African Americans,” said Madeline Scales-Taylor, Trinity Presbyterian, McKinney.
Don and Jocelyn Pinkard of Hidden History DFW have thoroughly researched the history and development of Dallas. Although discovering the history of our communities through the lens of injustice is uncomfortable, Don and Jocelyn provide a meaningful experience and opportunity for learning with grace.
We learn to fulfill Christ’s calling to love our neighbor as we embrace rather than avoid our discomfort. Learning how our communities evolved, seeing where people live and work, can break open our hearts to a fuller understanding of our neighbors.
Through an experience like the Hidden History Tour, one asks, ‘what might we learn and what could we do differently moving forward?’ At the same time, experiences like these reorient our point of view about how we live day to day.
“Educational, historical, reverent, and deeply spiritual – that was the Grace Presbytery African American Historical Tour. Surprisingly, in the middle of a massive D.A.R.T. station in downtown Dallas, there sat Rosa Parks seated on a bus seat – a tender reminder about patience, persistence, and the hopeful search for freedom, justice, and peace,” said Pat Wiegand, Emmanuel Presbyterian, Bedford.
SJTF invites you to join in connecting with one another and building healing communities in future events. A discussion group on Jim Schutze’s book, The Accommodation, is planned for September. The Accommodation examines the history of Dallas and its troubled record with race and racism. Following this discussion group another Hidden History Tour may be planned.
We are reminded in this Eastertide season that we lean into mystery and history as we remember the scars Jesus bore in his resurrected life. Scars bearing witness to the wounds of abused power and lack of love that led to his suffering and death. Scars that remind what leads to suffering so healing can begin. In Jesus Christ, God is the God who shares in our suffering so we may share in God’s abundant, eternal life.
Photos supplied by tour participants.