Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Geneva: Red Cross Museum Revelation

I didn’t know what to expect before arriving in Geneva, Switzerland, but I was anxious. The grandeur of the city’s name and it being known as the world’s headquarters for peace had me in a continual cycle of suspense. I noticed my spirit was unearthed as I felt that there was something I was supposed to find, discover, or connect with. What exactly? I didn’t know. And, as our departure date drew closer, my emotions left me with little to no sleep. So I began fasting and increased my prayer time asking God to reveal His will and for the ability to hear His directions clearly. The night before we left Lugano, I reached out to my sisters back in the states and requested prayer.

We arrived, checked in, and was off to explore the city. To our surprise, we defaulted to plan B; which was to tour the Red Cross Museum. In class, we learned how the Red Cross played a major role during and after World War 1. The founder, Henry Dunant, was from Switzerland. He and his partners took the charge of becoming an intermediary in connecting lost loved ones who died and/or went missing. I was curious to learn more. At the beginning of the second exhibition I grasped for a greater understanding where the stone contained the words, “Restoring the Family Links” in French, English and German. However, the chains hanging from the ceiling slightly confused me as I questioned if the display represented slavery in America. If so, why? Next, there were huge cases of glass with rows of what they called catalogs. They looked like 3x5 cards inside little small wooden boxes. There were hundreds of them and they were carefully preserved. Several steps thereafter were open displays preceding a scaled wall that contained dozens of pictures with small children. I dare not take away the importance of the Red Cross and its WW1 commemoration. However, in those moments I received fresh revelation leading me to a series of questions. Why is there not a system in place commemorating and reconnecting those who are descendants of the diaspora to Africa? Why are there not catalogs leading us back to our tribes? Why, after 400 years are our family links not been restored? My body began to burn with a righteous anger and I was filled with sadness. It was there, I was left to deal with the painful reality that America is my country but not my home.

I encouraged myself and proceeded into the temporary exhibition called, Prison. The exhibition was a like a capsule that allowed visitors to learn about social justice and punishment worldwide. There were sound-overs and film recordings; metal bars and steel entry doorways; statistics and interactive play. As I moved through the exhibit, there was a graph that demonstrated how the United States housed the most prisoners worldwide; the majority, African Americans. I became overwhelmed with negative emotions seeing the numbers at this magnitude and became nauseated as I went through the remainder of the exhibit. Finally, I sat down to watch one of the short black and white films that depicted prisoners and how they coped with incarceration while incarcerated. Within moments, I scurried out literally grasping for breath.

At dinner, my professor requested a recap from us students and as my peers shared their outlook; I withheld mine. Truly, I didn’t want to express my version of the experience because I knew I was located at the end of the spectrum; one they wouldn’t be able to relate to. Regardless of how I felt, I proceeded to share my outlook in a solemn mannerism. Yet, I could not stop the pain from spewing out from the corridors of my heart straight through the doors of my mouth. I spoke not of my interpretation but of my own personal experiences in dealing with the criminal justice system. Silence brushed over the table as I finished speaking and I realized my caucasian peers and professor was taking an introspective look at the emotional vomit I spewed out over our dinner table. The trauma in dealing with the U.S. mass incarceration phenomenon has left the African American family unit to endure another feat of trauma as we collectively endure with the toxic stress of living in poverty with generations of absent mothers and fathers.

As an African American, I’d have to admit that it has been excruciating these past few years to see the levels of turmoil on the rise in our society. Multitudes of African Americans sit privately in pain, while others directly impacted publicly voice their cry for help. Yet, it seems as though the world continues to ignore and profit from mass incarceration. At the end of the parable of the sheep and goat found in the book of Matthew, the word says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me….Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”” - Matthew‬ ‭25:31-46‬ ‭NIV‬‬ https://www.bible.com/111/mat.25.31-46.niv‬‬‬‬

Visiting the Red Cross Museum was an experience I will never forget. Although my time in Geneva was hardly enough, I felt great sadness upon leaving. You see, the day prior to leaving, I went up to the village of Mount Bre to journal and it was there, the Holy Spirit shared with me that Geneva was going to be a place of solace. And, not knowing then the fullness of its meaning, I held it close to my heart just like I will always hold Geneva.            

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