A road to freedom




by Alyssa Parker

In downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, there is a museum dedicated to the Underground Railroad and slavery in the United States. As soon as I began viewing the first part of the exhibit, I was overcome with emotion, seeing the portrayals of men bound in chains staring down the barrel of a gun. My eyes filled with tears.

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I had seen it all before, but what got to me is that it didn’t feel like something long ago. I still see stories of black men staring down the barrel of a gun while chained in shackles of poverty, inequality, and a system designed for them to fail.

As I continued through the exhibits, seeing the presidents and information about the Civil War, there were quotes from Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. What I had always been taught is that they were opposites, one on the side of good and the other fighting for an evil institution. However, I found that Lincoln actually did not fight for an end to slavery--he fought for a collective, united country. There were actually quotes from him in which he stated he did not believe that blacks and whites were equal, nor would they ever be, and they never should be. I also found a quote by Robert E. Lee that stated that he did not even want slavery. He did not want to be on the Confederate side of the Civil War.

It is amazing to realize how misled we are. It makes me wonder about the current state of our nation. Where are we as a nation? What about our leader now?

The slave Frances Fedric said, “Men and women down on their knees begging to be purchased to go with their wives or husbands...children crying and imploring not to have their parents sent away from them; but all their beseeching and tears were of no avail. They were ruthlessly separated, most of them forever.” That is happening right now at our border. It also is happening with mass incarceration and in poverty-ridden neighborhoods. We can no longer look at this as history, because it is happening right here and right now.

Views on slavery

Exhibits from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Photos by Alyssa Parker.

There was an exhibit about modern-day slavery that told stories of children all over the world who are exploited for labor. The human trafficking, mass incarceration, and other modern forms of slavery that exist today are overlooked. The exhibit focused on children, but modern-day slavery includes adults as well. This past year, my last semester at Bridgewater (Va.) College, I found that Interstate 81, about 5 minutes away, is one of the most used highways for human trafficking.

As I concluded the tour of the museum, I came to the portion about the Underground Railroad. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that there had been people risking their lives for slaves to be free and safe. I looked at some of the houses that played a role and found a Baptist church. It moved me to ask the question: Right now, would we, the Church of the Brethren, risk ourselves to be a safe haven for those who are enslaved?

How are we creating a road to freedom for those who are still shackled with chains in our society? We have to beg these questions to really be the peace church that we claim to be.

-- Alyssa Parker served as a young adult member of the Annual Conference news team for 2018.


For more onsite coverage of Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage .

The news coverage of Annual Conference 2018 is made possible through the work of communications staff and a volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Alyssa Parker; youth team member Allie Dulabaum; web staff Jan Fischer Bachman, Russ Otto; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services; Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact cobnews@brethren.org.

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