“Right temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
It is after midnight and I have returned home from an exhausting but memorable journey. The day started with a road trip to South Carolina to speak at the Anderson County Ministers Organizations annual MLK celebration. I volunteered to speak on behalf of the United Negro College Fund. I listened to the Youth Choir sing and stood with the audience as we sang the Black National Anthem together. As I waited my turn to speak my thoughts drifted back to earlier in the day and the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. I listened to an older and liberated Commander and Chief who, from all appearances, was finally having his say.
I was struck by the hopefulness, the diversity, and united excitement as I watched a spellbound crowd look on in awe at what seemed a frozen moment in history. An African American man serving a second term as President of the United States was indeed historical. Yet here I was in South Carolina, the only State that 236 years ago refused to vote to end slavery at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, allowing the enslavement and suffering of millions of Africans to continue, while insisting that they be allowed to count the enslaved as residents in order to garner more political power to continue their barbaric practice.
I wondered how many of the people in this audience of over a thousand were aware of their State’s history. Somehow I sensed a disconnect; it was as if the several different generations in the room were unaware of what linked them together. I thought perhaps I could help to bridge the gap by showing a common thread, which bound the past with the present and the future. A tall order to fulfill in a twenty-minute keynote address and a far greater challenge for me than any talk I had ever delivered.
I felt heaviness in my heart as I looked at the film footage of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wondered how he managed to carry on when he was tired and afraid. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledged the long fought battles for freedom, the ceaseless struggle and refusal to give up even in the face of death. Still I have never felt such dissonance; on the one hand I am grateful for those who stood in the rifle cites and on the other hand I am painfully aware of the tenuous tightrope of justice and freedom my children and grandchildren now walk.
Reminiscing, I remembered my grandmother, how her face lit up each time she looked at me as if I were the greatest gift she had ever received and I knew from the start that I was loved and that there was much expected of me. Now I was being introduced and what I thought was going to be a simple reading of the short bio in the printed program turned into an embarrassing recitation of my resume, the result of way too much information online. I begged the MC to intervene but I just had to grin and bear it. It felt pretentious and boastful and I shrank with every extraordinarily long minute.
I approached the podium looked out into the crowd and knew instantly that I was not going to show a single slide of my fully prepared power point presentation. This night I was going to simply share my story. It is no mystery how I became a story teller and it all began one hot summer day when we were playing baseball in our back yard. I was too small to hold the bat so daddy would bat for me and I would run the bases. We were taking a break, mama brought out lemonade and daddy was standing in the sun leaning on his bat when he suddenly began to recite the famous baseball poem “Casey at the Bat.” I lost all awareness of anything or anyone, I could only see Daddy, Casey, and all of the people in the stands. I was transported to another place and time and in that moment the trajectory of my life changed and the rest is history.
It has been a long and amazing day and I am empty. I look forward to a restful sleep that will replenish my strength and spirit so that tomorrow I will be fit to serve with distinction and courage, whatever the challenge.
Some say, and many believe, that with this presidential election America has been granted a brief reprieve, a second chance to get it right, and to heal; to keep at bay retribution for her unresolved sins. . . I suppose that remains to be seen.
Remembering. . .