The Power of Truth-telling and Remembrance
Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage
“Remembering Anarcha” Documentary
Michelle Browder’s More Than Tours
In the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in two separate events centered around truth-telling and the power of remembrance. One event, the Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage, recalled the stories and impact of Alabama martyrs gone too soon. The second event was a private screening of a documentary film produced by Josh Carples, C. DeWayne Cunningham, and Royce Williams, entitled, “Remembering Anarcha,” which boldly details the heart-wrenching sacrifices of three enslaved African women, more fittingly known today as the “mothers of gynecology.” And then there is Michelle Browder, owner of More Than Tours in Montgomery, Alabama, who is most responsible for bringing the significance of “Mothers of Gynecology”—Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey—to our attention. AISJ is continuously inspired by such efforts and individuals, whose life and work point us towards compassionate, ethical, and humane treatment of all people.
Jonathan Myrick Daniels Pilgrimage 

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist. In 1965, he was murdered by a shotgun-wielding special county deputy, Tom Coleman, who was a construction worker, in Hayneville, Alabama, while in the act of shielding 17-year-old Ruby Sales, saving the life of the young Black civil rights activist. They were both working in the Civil Rights Movement in Lowndes County to integrate public places and register Black voters after passage of the Voting Rights Act that summer. Daniels' death generated further support for the Civil Rights Movement, and in 1991, Daniels was designated as a
martyr in the Episcopal church and is recognized annually in its calendar. This past year, the annual event was held virtually (watch here). The 2021 event will also be held virtually, Saturday, August 14th.

Today, Black people are still fighting for the right to vote, and efforts to suppress voter rights are as aggressive as ever. AISJ serves on the Alabama Voting Rights Coalition, and a number of bills have been presented to this group—some with the intent to protect voting rights and accessibility in Alabama, and others intended to curtail and undermine those same rights. For example, Representative Adline Clarke’s HB180 establishes an early voting period that begins on the Saturday 17 days before election day and extends through the Saturday 3 days before election day. This bill will obviously expand voter access, which we support. In contrast, we do not support bills like HB285, sponsored by Representative Wes Allen, which would prohibit curbside voting. A ban on curbside voting would make it more difficult for voters with disabilities to vote, and also disproportionately burden Black voters, since Black adults over 65 in Alabama are 4.1 percent more likely to have a disability than white adults over 65. Elderly Black adults are also 5.6 percent more likely to have an ambulatory difficulty. According to ACLU Policy & Advocacy Director Dillon Nettles, "proactive efforts to expand voting, like Rep. Clarke's, have been consistently shut down by the House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs committee, while bills such as HB285, have progressed and are near final passage."

AISJ will continue to support and advocate for all bills that will protect and expand voter rights, especially on behalf of those who are marginalized. And we remain grateful for people like Jonathan Myrick Daniels and the many others who gave their lives to ensure that all people will have the right to vote.

Remembering Anarcha 

Shaded under the shadows of a tall tree on the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery stands a statue of Dr. James Marion Sims, a South Carolinian who spent almost two decades in the Montgomery area, prior to the start of the Civil War, practicing medicine. For many, however, “practicing medicine” is too nice a phrase. In history, Sims is known as “the father of modern gynecology,” but for his detractors, he has been called “Father Butcher” for his experiments on enslaved women—without anesthesia or what today would be called “informed consent” in the medical community. His legacy, and the statues dedicated to him for his medical discoveries and advancements—in Montgomery, AL; Columbia, SC; and, until its removal in early 2018, in New York City’s Central Park—only tell part of the story. The whole story requires questioning who Sims was and who the subjects of his experiments were: the mothers of gynecology. The documentary “Remembering Anarcha” explores these historical figures and issues, along with ethics, race, and the lingering effects on modern society and medicine. The film is available now on iTunes.

The manner in which an enslaved African woman is misused and tortured in “Remembering Anarcha” carries over into the way Black women are exploited today. It is no secret that Black women are foundational to their families, communities, and the economy, yet they are consistently underpaid and under-resourced. The data remain clear: white women continue to earn 10% more than Black women, and white men earn 35% more than Black women. And when it comes to venture capital funding, Black women receive only 0.3 percent. Black women and girls live at the intersection of sexism and racism. And it started as far back as slavery, which led to the unthinkable methods exercised in Dr. Sim's experiments, and has been further actualized in the poverty that Black women and their families continue to reel from in the 21st century. #Facts
Michelle Browder, More Than Tours - #SeeMGM 

Michelle Browder is a multimedia artist and activist in Montgomery, AL. It was Michelle who first brought the stories, images, and lives of Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey—the “mothers of gynecology”—to our attention. Michelle has shared in interviews and articles about the countless times she has passed by the statue of Dr. James Marion Sims that stands on a pedestal in front of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Every time, her reaction is the same: “Infuriated. I know we need a reckoning. The fact that Sims is glorified became very problematic for me.” The “Mothers of Gynecology” monument is inspired by Browder’s indignation over the fact that Sims’ reputation as the “father of modern gynecology” has eclipsed public acknowledgement of the enslaved women who made his medical discoveries possible.

As we move into the Mother's Day Weekend, join Michelle via Zoom for a Live Virtual Reading, Saturday, May 8th, at 6:00 PM CST for Behind the Sheet, by Charly Evon Simpson. The event is currently on sale for $25. Then join the Ground Breaking Ceremony View and Chew, which will feature actress Tatyana Ali, from the hit series The Fresh on Bel-Air, Sunday, May 9th from 1:30-3:30 PM CST. This event is FREE and will be held at 17 Mildred Street, Montgomery, AL. #SeeMGM

AISJ is proud to honor the legacies of these incredible individuals, whose lives continue to shape and guide our consciousness. In addition, we all need to support these amazing artists, who are doing the important work of telling critical stories that are rightly part of American history, as well as a rallying call for us to work for racial and gender equity in modern times. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. once said: "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." As you can see, our friends are not silent. 

Remember Anarcha Film Release
Opens May 6th iTunes
Mother's Day Weekend
Live Virtual Reading
Saturday, May 8th, at 6:00 PM CST

Ground Breaking Ceremony View and Chew
Sunday, May 9th, 1:30-3:30 PM CST

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