Arts and Culture

After being released from six days in jail for picketing a whites-only store in Alabama in 1965, a 17-year-old Ruby Sales experienced an event that played a pivotal role in who she would become. She and several others went to buy a soda, and were confronted by a special county deputy with a shotgun. Sales’ friend pushed her aside, taking a bullet and dying instantly.

That event had a profound effect on Sales. She nearly lost her ability to speak for seven months. Later, she went to divinity school and founded The Spirit House Project: a non-profit that works for racial, economic and social justice.

Sales is speaking at this year’s Festival of Faiths, on a session Saturday entitled “Understanding the Feminine Aspects of the Divine.” You can listen to our conversation in the media player above.

Sales on the 1965 incident:

“It was one of those hot August days that was a typically southern August day where the heat was palpitating from the cement. And we were hot and we were tired. And we were designated — Jonathan, Father Marshall, Joyce Bailey and I — the group designated us to go and get sodas. And when we got to the door of the grocery store where we always went, Tom Coleman was standing in the door with a shotgun and said some curse words to me and before I realized what was going on, Jonathan pulled my blouse and I fell back. And he took the shotgun blast.”

On The Spirit House Project:

“The Spirit House Project was my way of trying to decide what I would do with my degree as an M Div graduate. Masters of Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School which was the school Jon had attended. I did not want to be a pulpit minister and so I decided that I would bring together all of the pieces of my life into an organization that would be my ministry. That would take me on the road traveling in the same way that Jesus had been on the road. And so Spirit House is a national 501c3 organization that brings people together from different backgrounds to work on racial and gender justice.”

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.