Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Few Thoughts About the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial

This past week I got into a discussion with a friend regarding Michael Fedo's book The Lynching In Duluth which led into talking about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. To my surprise he had fairly strong feelings against the memorial. When I asked why he said that things like this only foster hatred.

This reaction completely surprised me, but it showed clearly how the ideas, observations and conclusions we've come to in our own minds can often be completely at odds with where others are at. Once we recognize this, and hopefully when we are young, then we begin to recognize the value of dialogue, of listening and hearing.

Dialogue is one of those things that takes courage because there are so many barriers to communication, one of them being our own fear of rejection for ideas or feelings we might have. But dialogue is important, and essential to reconciliation. This is, I believe, one of the aims of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, to foster dialogue that can lead to reconciliation and healing for our city.

Police station, after it was over.
This year marks the 94th anniversary of the tragedy that ended the lives of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, three young African American men who were falsely accused, taken by a mob from the old Duluth jail on East Superior Street, and lynched at the intersection where the CJM Memorial now stands. The story of how this memorial came into being eleven years ago can be found here: www.claytonjacksonmcghie.org/CreationMemorial

The importance of remembering this event isn't just in regards to race relations, though there are many lessons there. I find it important because of what it teaches us about mobs, about mob violence and the importance of civil and civilized relations. I saw the power of a mob when I was in college, how emotions were stirred, how people were manipulated, and the subsequent damage. The breakdown of order into disorder takes people down strange paths. But let's not forget the racial component either.

All this to say that there are some events the CJMM Committee has announced for this week ahead.

• Sunday, June 15, 6PM, Park Hill Cemetery, 2500 Vermillion Rd — Join us a vigil at the gravesites of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie for a gathering that includes storytelling, ribbon tying, and laying of flowers.

• Monday, June 16, 12:00 PM, Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, First St & Second Ave E — Day of Remembrance: Building Trust within Communities
Community members will gather to honor the memory of the three young men who were lynched in 1920. Special guest speakers include: Mayor Don Ness, Natasha Lancour, and Stephan Witherspoon. Come and meet and hear from our 2014 Scholarship Recipient Taneasha Muonio, recent graduate of Duluth Denfeld High School heading to Augsberg College this fall.

• Monday, June 16, 1-3 PM, Building for Women, 32 E First St, Basement — Reception
Come see our board meeting space and enjoy some conversation and refreshments with us. We will be accepting donations at this time for our scholarship fund.

• Monday, June 15, 6-8:30 PM, Fitger’s Spirit of the North Theater and The Bookstore at Fitger’s, 600 E Superior St, 3rd Floor — Educational Event and Book Signing The Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota by Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle. Join us at 6:30pm for a Meet and Greet with the author, at 7pm there will be a book reading and Powerpoint Presentation tailored to Duluth, followed by a book signing by the author at the Bookstore at 7:30pm.

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