Our view: Remembering, again, since there’s still need
Nine and a half decades have passed since Duluth’s most shameful moment, when an angry mob falsely accused three black men of raping a white girl, ripped them from their jail cells, lynched them and then posed proudly with the dangling bodies.
A decade and two years have gone by since a moment of major amends, when thousands of Duluthians dedicated a memorial to the tragedy at the downtown intersection where it happened. The memorial remains a place of remembrance and healing. It’s hallowed ground. There’s no other spot like it.
Though the memorial is open to the public, once a year, to commemorate the anniversary of the horrible happening, we’re invited to gather there as a community to respect, to honor, to pay reverence — and to lament that we sadly still need to, that we still have a long way to go when it comes to racism, social justice and equality issues.
Some may disagree with that, but a growing catalog of viral videos depicting racial violence across the U.S. of late argues otherwise. Closer to home, in just the past five years, an effigy of President Barack Obama was hung from a billboard near Miller Hill Mall; a pizza-parlor employee dressed in blackface for a Halloween costume contest; two University of Minnesota Duluth students videotaped themselves using racial epithets while wearing masks that looked like blackface makeup; an Un-Fair Campaign billboard was defaced with the n-word; a white-supremacist group visited Duluth; and two high school students took a photo of a black classmate, scribbled the likeness of a noose onto the picture as though it were around the classmate’s neck, added the words, “Gotta hang ’em
all,” and then shared it with others via social media.
So we gather this week to continue the struggle “to restore peace and faith in the Duluth community,” as Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc. stated in announcing its “Week of Remembrance” events. They begin tomorrow. The nonprofit is named for the three men lynched in Duluth in 1920: Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie. Their lives violently snuffed out far too soon, the men deserve more than a moment a year. But let’s gather en masse at the memorial tomorrow and participate in other events through Sunday to give them at least that.
Week of Remembrance events begin Friday:
Friday — A community gathering is scheduled for noon at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial at First Street and Second Avenue East. Speakers are to include Duluth Mayor Don Ness; Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay; Superior Police Chief Nick Alexander; Woodland Hills CEO Jeff Bradt; ChaQuana McEntyre; Rogier Gregoire of Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial; and 2015 Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial scholarship recipient Jasmine Fuller, now graduated from Denfeld High School.
Saturday — A vigil is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Park Hill Cemetery gravesites of lynching victims Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie. The vigil will include an open forum for community members to speak and for conversation.
Sunday — The film, “Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot,” will be screened at 4:30 p.m. at Zinema 2, 222 East Superior St., with a discussion to follow.
For more information go to claytonjacksonmcghie.org.