Phillip Baber participated in a virtual ceremony remembering the lynching of Eugene Burnam in 1923. You can read Phillip’s statement here:

Maya Angelou famously wrote: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” If that is true, then the ground beneath our feet today is in anguish. For the blood of Eugene Burnam cries out to us from this plot of earth. Nothing we do today can bring Eugene Burnam back. Nothing we say can turn back the clock and restore to him the long, peaceful life he should have had the opportunity to have lived. No ritual we perform can vicariously atone for the sins of the four white men who murdered him, or for the collective sins of the city and nation that gave birth to this lynching—and others like it.

These are not our purposes today.    

Rather, we are here today to bear witness to the largely untold (and thus largely forgotten) story buried shallowly in this ground. And in that story—in the telling of it, the hearing of it, the re-living of it—we may plant the seeds for the possibility of something better to come: the hope of a future where every vestige of American racism has finally been cast down from the altars of white supremacy. A future where animosities born from historical injustices and imbalances of power will no longer separate God’s children from one another. A future in which all God’s children—of every race—may be reconciled to one another.

But. History has taught us again and again and again, there can be no reconciliation without truth. And that is because reconciliation also requires a little bit of grace and a good deal of justice. And we can understand neither the demands of justice nor the limits of grace until we have first learned the truth. The whole truth. For it is only through the whole truth that we might all be set free.

The sharing of this story is the beginning of a truth-telling, and thus, the beginning of a reconciliation. A restoration. And possibly a liberation.

But it is only a beginning. Certainly not an end.

For people of faith and people of conscience: At this time, I invite you to bow your heads and join me in a spirit of prayer.

Gracious God Known by Many Names,

We are gathered here today to lift up the memory of Eugene Burnam, whose blood cries out to you from this soil. We are here to declare that his story will be told. And will not be forgotten.

Righteous God, we invoke now your Holy Spirit: Hallow by your presence, this ground profaned by innocent blood and neglect.

Grant us the power—some hundred years after the fact—to imbue this senseless killing with a meaning and a purpose. By your grace, grant that we may harvest beauty from this desolation, hope from this despair, life from this death, love from this hate.

May our words and actions here today begin to prepare a day when all Americans across this land will come to understand that lynchings such as occurred to Eugene Burnam were, in fact, murders after the manner of Cain’s killing of Abel. In other words: a fratricide. For we are all your children.

And, if we are all your children—if we are indeed brothers and sisters and siblings—then we must confess it is a sin to continue to withhold the dignity and liberty and equality that is due to each, as a matter of birthright.

So, Great and Mighty God, grant each of us the strength—and more importantly the courage—to complete this most difficult work that must yet be done.

In your holiest of names we pray,

Amen.


Black Jacksonville man’s lynching 97 years ago remembered Sunday in virtual commemoration
The Florida Times Union