On the Saturday of SURRENDER Adelaide Conference, I was invited to join the 1st peoples generation of Australia for an outing to Eden Hills in southern Adelaide. Eden Hills was the last site of the Colebrook Children’s Training Home, a residential facility begun in 1927 by the United Aborigines Mission as an institution for Aboriginal children who were stolen (taken) from their parents and homes to be enculturated into the acceptability of their colonizers. From 1927- 1972 (yes, 1972), this institution served as “home” to more than 360 aboriginal children who were violently stolen from their families, many of whom never saw their families again. They are called the stolen generations. Some who were present Saturday were returning for the first time. Some could not contain the tears. I met a woman who has still not met her mother after being taken away as a baby. She is in her 50’s.
The home is no longer there. It was demolished in 1972 because of deplorable conditions…but this savage practice of stealing children in an effort to “assimilate them into civilization” continued until 1981. 1981. Colebrook relocated for those last years. Even after multiple citations of physical, sexual abuse, psychological, and emotional abuse. Even after several citations for deplorable and unsanitary living conditions, the home remained opened and the children continued to be taken with religious blessing and state sanctioned laws. In place of the building now…there are two statues: one is the fountain of tears. A stone carving of the faces of actual children who lived there who, in many ways, appear to be holding up an empty baby carrier with their whole selves. And from that carrier flows a fountain of tears…forever drenching the faces of those children.
The statue faces another statue of “the weeping mother,” collapsed on a rock, with empty arms, facing the home where her children had been taken. A place that did not even allow visitation by these mothers. In the photo of the statue below you will notice that the mother's arms are filled with things. That is because even now. It is difficult for those who visit to face the truth of this evil. So we try to fill her arms. To subconsciously hide her reality in a futile effort to soothe our consciousness of humankind’s capacity to do harm. The rest is an open field…and that is where we gathered to eat. And to laugh. And to remember. And to learn.
The evil has not stopped. It has simply mutated. To laws that limit the ability of 1st people’s to ever reclaim their land. To state sanctioned child abduction that is now called child care and protective custody. To disproportionate numbers of incarcerated 1st nation peoples of Australia incarcerated in spite of these generations having been diminished to 3% of the population by national genocide.
I wonder do they stand for the anthem of the land that once was their own.
And what do they do with the god they were encouraged to exchange for their own. Embracing a god who will not save them. While quietly worshipping the God who delivers in the clearings where they gather.
There is something peculiarly familiar about this moment.
I've been here time and time again.
No matter how far I travel around the world I seem to always arrive at home.
Whether at the fire hoses of Birmingham. Or the hotels of Memphis. Or the bridges of Selma. Or the bayou of Mississippi. Or the streets of Ferguson. Or the halls of the White House. Or the villages of Ghana. Or the refugee camps of Lebanon. Or within the walls of Palestine. Or in the city of the walking dead of Egypt. Or the camp site of Standing Rock. Or the hot spot centers of Italy. Or the refugee camps of Germany. Or the children's home of Adelaide. Or in the holding cells of the city jail. Or the dank halls of ICE. Or the border in Arizona. Or the street corner of Hodiamont where women's bodies are sold. All home.
There is a spiritual connection between the sun-kissed children of God.
One that requires few words.
One of instant connection.
One of common bond.
How did they try to kill you?
Did they take your children away?
Did they take you from your mother's arms and write your father out of your story?
Did they rob you of your history and only give you part of theirs?
How did they try to kill you?
Did they gentrify your neighborhoods?
Did they civilize your God?
Did they portray you as a monster and then arrive to save the day?
Was it a bullet?
Or an experiment?
Or bondage? The slave kind or the caged kind?
Was it the school that never taught?
Or the submission that was preached?
How did they try to kill you?
Was it the drugs that mysteriously appeared?
Was it the dangling of the dream…and the sabotage of the means?
Did they steal your words. Your songs. Your dance. And sell them as their own?
When did you learn that your dark skin was the source of their fear
…and your very being the source of their rage?
Did you ingest the poison…and begin to kill yourselves?
When did you know they hate that you survived?
Do they speak of you as if you never were the forces they tried to subdue?
There is a global connection among the sun-kissed people of God.
It has been written out of history books. And written out of sacred text. And written out of collective memory. But we must rise and tell.
There is a spiritual connection.
A common pain. A common power.
A common way to be whole again.
Perhaps it is because they know.
They know that we are connected.
They know we are not alone.
And all the attempts to divide us…is resulting in new song. That we are not the minority.
I can hear the rhythm rising.
We are not afraid.
That we are the majority.
The global majority.
The world is being kissed by the sun.
And we will rise from this place. And be healed.
Does my joy offend you?
Does my boldness give you pause?
Does my Resistance enrage you?
It is because I know.
(no explanations will be given for this reflection)
I want to acknowledge that SURRENDER engages these truths more authentically than I’ve seen anywhere. They have not arrived. But they have actually begun. And I am grateful to call them family.
We were all family together. Both black and white. Yet. In this moment. I just want to show gratitude for the love of my people. Sun-kissed people. We've been battered and bruised. But we are not broken. We are beautiful. Let's stay connected.