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Anticipating The Future 'Black Lives Matter' National Park

A Message From Audrey Peterman

Speaking at "Carver Day" last recently on the tranquil, pastoral grounds of George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, MO, I told the audience that I'm very much looking forward to the day when a unit is added to the National Park System commemorating the success of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

"I'll take it easy on you," my new friend Josiah assured me when I invited him to race through the meadows where George Washington Carver walked as a boy. He's planning to be a wildlife biologist and was happy to meet Ranger Randall Becker (l) and Superintendent James Heaney in front of a bust of the great man.

Never having been perfect, our country has come through many tumultuous times on the way toward  "liberty and justice for all." The places and events that have had the most pivotal effect in our evolution are protected in our National Park System to show us from whence we have come, and what we must do to continue to honor our debt to our ancestors and our responsibility to our descendants.

It is no more optimistic to envision a 'Black Lives Matter' National Monument in our future than it would have been to imagine the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail on "Bloody Sunday" 1965. That day when the hounds of hell were loosed upon Dr. Martin Luther King and the peaceful marchers for voting rights, when young John Lewis (today's longtime Congressman) was beaten within an inch of his life and many others were critically wounded by law enforcement, who would have thought that it would become enshrined as part of the most pivotal events in our history?

These young Junior Rangers are all smiles having just earned the badges that they're proudly wearing. Pastor Harold Wallace brought them and other members of Jackson Memorial Baptist Church in Kansas City to Carver Day in the park. What obligation do we have to create a more harmonious future for them?

Yet indeed the horror experienced by Americans and President Lyndon Johnson at seeing the pictures coming out of the event forced him to declare before Congress:

"The cause of the marchers must be our cause too..." and "really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome."  The Voting Rights Act followed shortly thereafter with the park being established in 1996 to protect that historical legacy.

Similarly Alcatraz Island commemorates the Indians of All Tribes Occupation, (1964, 1969-71) and the newly-minted Stonewall Inn National Monument marks the place where members of the LGBT community rose up in 1969 to force recognition of their unequal treatment at the hands of the law.