The most difficult leg of the pilgrimage had to be Buford Highway in Atlanta’s DeKalb County. The main drag of this polyglot commercial area interestingly enough called “International Village” is a clear example of what social work theorist David Gil calls “structural violence” or what others like my friend and President of Flourish, Rusty Pritchard, refers to as an example of institutional and/or environmental racism.
Buford Highway is a six-lane stretch of highway filled with emissions burning, 50+ mph cars and trucks zipping up and down this road with the drivers disconnected, in any empathic sense, to the harsh reality faced by the poorest, mostly immigrant, residents who call Buford Highway home.
If you either can’t afford a car or can’t legally obtain a driver’s license your choices for mobility around here are restricted to Atlanta’s dwindling public mode of transportation that sports a Spanish name – MARTA – or using your own feet. The problem with the latter is… NO SIDEWALKS.
Part of the purpose of a pilgrimage is for the participant to go through a process of spiritual introspection, meditation, confession, repentance and renewal to follow the calling of Christ. I am posting these pictures as large as I can because I want the reader to meditate on them.
Consider the loving father above. Look at how close he is to the road. There is no sidewalk to keep his feet steady as he guards his child from the dangerous traffic only inches away. If, God forbid, something were to happen, can we truly call it an “accident” when the lack of public infrastructure only invites tragedy?
As we walked, and especially for our U.S. citizen pilgrims, I pray that there were moments of stillness when all of us had a heightened sense of awareness to the unjust sufferings of immigrants who traverse these perilous paths in search of dignity. May local residents, both native born and immigrant, be mobilized to work for justice and show kindness to the marginalized on Buford Highway who walk humbly with God (and dangerous traffic) at their side.
Do justice… love kindness… walk humbly with your God.