MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Thousands of visitors have converged on Montgomery at this hour to take part in the opening day of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum.
The peace memorial is a shrine dedicated to the memory of those who were lynched and hanged many years ago. Starting off Thursday's programs is the Peace and Justice Summit, happening at the MPAC in downtown Montgomery.
This was one of those unusual events in which organizers wouldn't allow media access inside the summit. However, it was clear the Peace and Justice Summit was inviting enough to attract folks far and wide such as Patricia Reilly of Hollins, Michigan.
"To remind us of the history that was violent towards African-Americans," Reilly explained.
The majority of those who are at the summit have no doubt punched their ticket to the peace memorial about a mile away on Caroline Street. It is here where the horrific stories of lynchings are being told.
"I also wanted to learn," said Yvette Wilson of Charlotte, North Carolina who applauds the efforts to have us all confront the truth with the hope healing will spring forth during a season of renewal.
"Pay my respects to the people, the thousands of people that were lynched and were forgotten aren't really forgotten," Wilson added.
"My congregation is very interested in anti-racism and working for ways to engage with those who've been hurt by the tint of racism," said Jeanette Leisk, a pastor from Washington, D.C.
One by one, visitors stood in line to get a better sense of a shameful part of American history and maybe learn the 'whys' behind it all and where to go from here.
"It's long overdue. In terms of the takeaway, I think we'll all walk away a little stronger than when we came," added Miami resident Gene Tennie.
Tennie felt the atrocities of this part of American history really needed to come into focus once and for all.
People like Farris Bell found the panel discussions at the summit riveting.
"I think if we don't know the beginnings of things and why they happened, we don't have a clue about how to change things," Bell said.
Many say the peace summit provided context and understanding, two critical components they believe necessary to begin the healing.
There was a full slate of speakers Thursday, including Dr. William Barber, gospel recording artist Chrystal Rucker, Marian Wright Edelman and more. Friday, there will be another round of prominent speakers, including former Vice President Al Gore.
Opening ceremonies begin Thursday evening at MPAC starting at 6:30 p.m. Features will include Congressman John Lewis, Bebe Winans, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Ailey Two.