“The Sound of Heaven Touching Earth”

March 20, 2022, Brunswick, GA- The feisty preacher had her congregation singing this refrain in unison, as a prelude to her energetic homily, as services proceeded in Mary Ross Waterfront Park, along East River. This is life in Brunswick, after the verdicts in the Ahmaud Arbery case.

The crew at Sunrise Diner is downhome and multiracial. They work tightly together as a team, with no daylight between them, in terms of pecking order or separation. The owner mans the host stand, his mother is floor manager and his son alternates between serving and bussing, with his daughter moving about, acting as both server and hostess. Men of colour are servers, bussers and cooks, but are treated as full members of the team. Regulars were being greeted warmly, as was this visitor-never treated as a stranger. The portions are not overbearing; they are just filling and delicious.

It was important to see this, on the heels of what could have been a good deal less than the move forward that came from the trial. Certainly, there is a lot that could yet be done, in terms of community growth, yet I got the sense that people here want the world to know that they, and much of the rest of the South, are moving forward in a positive way.

The area was settled by James Oglethorpe and his band of colonists in 1738, as Britain was seeking a buffer to Spanish Florida. Oglethorpe was a forward-looking egalitarian, who opposed slavery, well before the majority of colonists were ready to give up the system. For that, he would be ostracized and would leave Georgia for good, in 1743. From then on, Brunswick and Savannah, both platted out by Oglethorpe in an easily navigable manner with lots of green space, would follow the rest of the plantation-bounded communities, in maintaining a culture of black enslavement. A plain monument to him is found in Queen’s Square.

Hanover Square is the largest of three parks designed by James Oglethorpe for Brunswick’s downtown core. It has several live oaks, symbiotic with Spanish moss, a salubrious fountain and a plain monument to Confederate soldiers. This last is the subject of ongoing debate, though it is easily overlooked. So far, there has been no lasting decision made about the small obelisk. Here is a view of the fountain.

Lastly, here are Old City Hall and a view of East River, which is Brunswick’s channel to the sea.

It is important to me to visit and engage those communities at which many may look askance. There is a wellspring of hope rising in Brunswick, as there is in Minneapolis, and many other communities which have found their internal conflicts boiling over. I hope to see this happening in peninsular Florida, as well, in the coming days.

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