Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Fifth Station of the Cross: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

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Soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross

A wood engraving of handcuffed and shackled slaves passing the U.S. Capitol

According to tradition, Simon of Cyrene was a black man ordered by Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry the cross. In the United States, our own Empire was built in large part upon the backs of African slaves, forced to carry the burden inflicted by Empire. It is a blight we cannot erase, but slavery has been a common tool of Empire throughout the ages.  

Twelve American presidents owned slaves and eight of them, starting with Washington, owned slaves while in office. Almost from the very start, slaves were a common sight in the executive mansion. A list of construction workers building the White House in 1795 includes five slaves - named Tom, Peter, Ben, Harry and Daniel -- all put to work as carpenters. Other slaves worked as masons in the government quarries, cutting the stone for early government buildings, including the White House and U.S. Capitol. According to records kept by the White House Historical Association, slaves often worked seven days a week -- even in the hot and humid Washington summers. (From "Slaves Built the White House and Capitol" at Afrocentric Culture by Design)

We still struggle to overcome the inertia of slavery as we wrestle and argue over voting rights, racial profiling, and prejudicial hiring practices.


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