What’s up, People?
You don’t have to answer.
I’m in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve been here for a few days. I’m doing some work down here. Not construction, show business. I’ll tell you about it when I’m done. I can’t right now. I can tell you about being here, I guess.
As many of you know I am always pleasantly surprised when I come down South. Almost always. After years of prejudgment and assumptions and stereotyping, I have grown to embrace and accept the South in bits and pieces, towns and cities, not as whole necessarily. You get what I’m saying. The point is Birmingham seems nice. It takes a lot for cities down here to work against the evil ghosts of oppression and terror that occupy the streets and buildings and fields and trees but they seem to be doing it. I like it here. Good energy, good food, nice people. I’ve been limited to a set and a couple square blocks but at least my judgments are leaning toward the good side which might be too idealistic. I don’t know.
On my day off I did take the trip to Montgomery to see the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum. In all my life of wandering through memorials and monuments and museums dedicated to the legacy of horror of one kind or another I have never been so gutted by a work of public art and museum of history. From their website:
‘The memorial structure on the center of the site is constructed of over 800 corten steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place. The names of the lynching victims are engraved on the columns. The memorial is more than a static monument. In the six-acre park surrounding the memorial is a field of identical monuments, waiting to be claimed and installed in the counties they represent. Over time, the national memorial will serve as a report on which parts of the country have confronted the truth of this terror and which have not.’
The steel rectangles are suspended evenly from posts, seemingly hanging, as you walk beneath them, hundreds of them. The effect is devastating and elevating simultaneously. Oppressive. The entire monument is situated on several acres of property and it takes time to walk around and take it in. No matter what I thought I knew or understood I have to admit my ignorance of the impact and terror of the violent history for African Americans in this country. I really knew very little other than it was wrong and awful and a few bits and pieces of the history because some part of me didn’t want to know. It is almost impossible to claim empathy as a white person but that isn’t required. What is required is to understand and learn and to know in your heart and mind what happened and the effect it had and continues to have.
After the memorial I drove to the museum which takes you through the entire history of organized murder and institutionalized racism in America. I felt ignorant and shallow and wrong for not knowing it in any real detail. I do now. The museum is in an old slave warehouse and that port on the river in Montgomery was a major hub of slave commerce. You are there in the house with the ghosts real pain and unthinkable horror.
Because of that day trip I won’t be the same and my heart and mind won’t be the same and that is powerful. That is being schooled. It’s an important trip to make if you can.
Today I talk to Josh Brolin which was fun and deep and fast moving. Great talk, great guy. On Thursday Mary Steenburgen and I have a great time getting to know each other and talking about her journey as a person. Great talk.