Two Loves-Two Worlds

Over the past week, our country experienced the very inspiring exposure of two loves emanating from two worlds. Those worlds are best defined as cultures that exist within the European-American and the African-American spheres juxtaposed within the geographical boundaries of the United States. Those two loves, though entrenched in the different cultures, are examples of our oneness. That oneness that is as diversified with all races, religions and ideas as you can experience anywhere in the world.

One of those loves was on display at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Michigan, the church that held the funeral service for Ms. Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul and the epitome of what was and still is good and wonderful about the African American community, one world. Ms. Franklin chose Greater Grace because she sang there for Ms. Rosa Parks funeral.

The other love was on display at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. the magnificent edifice where the soldier, warrior and statesman John McCain’s final service was held. McCain chose the National Cathedral as the appropriate place for a man who had dedicated his life to a career in the Senate and the military.

For seven hours, the service at Greater Grace Temple erupted in a celebration of joy and life as only an African American funeral can do. Its roots lay deep in the past, historically entrenched in one room churches throughout the South right after slavery, and in the urban churches as Blacks made their way to the North seeking a better life. The music was the music of a people’s soul that began as spirituals in the cotton fields and evolved to gospel in the urban areas and brought to life by a gifted writer, Tommie Dorsey.

The call and response are as old as the Black church. It is a technique used to get the congregation to be a part of the service. Baptist ministers are famous for using that as a method to liven the people and that is exactly what happened in Greater Grace Temple. It was appropriate that Ms. Franklin’s home going ceremony be full of life because she certainly was. All seven hundred men, women and children who were fortunate to get a seat inside of the Temple, gave her the love as only they knew how to deliver it.

The warrior/statesman’s funeral was much staider, less life, no call and response, no one was up in the aisles raising their arms and even dancing as was the case in Detroit. But the love was there, and it was displayed in a European-American ceremony. The most compelling examples of these distinct differences was how “Amazing Grace,” was performed by Jennifer Hudson in Detroit and the Brophy Student Ensemble rendition at McCain’s ceremony.

Renee Fleming’s rendition of “Danny Boy” was appropriate for the McCain service and brought tears to Mrs. Cindy McCain. However, when you heard Gladys Knight sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” as a tribute to the memory of Ms. Franklin, you felt the emotions throughout the Temple as the congregation was again on their feet, lifting their arms high in the air and closing their eyes in prayer.

The very important observation to be pointed out is that both services took on the demeanor of the two cultures, but they both showed the deference and respect to the two Americans who, in their own way, represented what is best about this country. And that is very important and much needed in these times of trouble in our land.

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CONVERSATION FROM HEAVEN

Imagine that the blue sky as a curtain covering the window that allows us to look into Heaven opens and we are allowed to view a conversation among some of the leaders of Black people over the past centuries. You might listen in to the following conversation among the following Black leaders

Entering the large cavernous space with no walls and no beginning and ending, you see Dr. Martin DeLany and he takes a seat at the very far end of a large beautiful glass conference table.

Next comes Frederick Douglass sitting at the other end. These two giants of the Nineteenth Century are at opposite ends representing their vastly different opinions on how Blacks could best survive after slavery.

Then you watch as Booker T. Washington strolls into the room and takes a seat on one side directly in middle.

He is followed into the room by Dr. W. E. B. DuBois who sits directly opposite of Washington.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett strolls into the Heavenly space and sits on the same side of the conference table as DuBois.

Fannie Lou Hamer hurries inside and sits on the side of the conference table with Washington.

For this particular session, Dr. DeLany has been designated by a Higher Source to lead the discussion.

 

Dr. DeLany stares down the table at Frederick Douglass.

“You and I, Frederick, first addressed the issue of how we as a race should address the issue of what we are to do after the race is freed from slavery. I wrote a tract at that time, “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered,” in which I suggested that Blacks must leave this country and find a new home land. A new country and a new beginning would be the only true, rational, political remedy for our disadvantageous position which would never change in this country due to the beliefs of superiority among the European Americans. You argued that moral suasion would work. I argued that these people give no consideration to moral arguments”.

Frederick Douglass responds.

“My response to your solution to our dilemma was that it represented an easy and comfortable evasion of the problem. And it falsely assumes that there is no hope for Blacks in this country, which has over the years become as much their country as any other people. You, my friend, believe racism and prejudice is a permanent state of the white man and therefore, we can never be politically and socially assimilated into this country. His greed and arrogance rob him of any morality and basic humanity is your basic premise which I believe is not correct. I always believed there was hope that eventually the races would come together”.

Booker T. Washington joins in the discussion.

“With all due respect for your scholarship Dr. DeLany, I must agree with Frederick. In my famous, “Address to the Atlanta Cotton Exposition,” back in 1895 I suggested that the two races could be as separate as the fingers on the hand when it comes to social and political equality, but as one when it comes to progress of the nation. My position was that we stay in our place and not be concerned with integration but concentrate on working in those jobs most suited for a people less than fifty years out of slavery. By concentrating on industrial, mechanical, vocational and primarily agricultural pursuits we could prove both individually and as a race that we were fit to join or be allowed into white society. We would eventually evolve to a higher standard of jobs but at that time we were not ready. Back then it was all about racial uplift.”

Dr. DuBois practically leans across the table to address Washington.

“Mr. Washington, I agreed with your belief that our people might have to be common laborers because they are not yet trained for higher professions. But I disagreed with you back then when you dismissed the importance of the mind and the importance of an education of higher learning in the universities. It was necessary that a segment of our population, both men and women, master the arts of literature, philosophy, history in order to elevate our race to a higher standard and help in our cultural awakening as a unique people. I believed it would be this educated, talented tenth that would naturally be the leaders of the race. It was the responsibility of this group to constantly work to rid society of racism. It was the ethical function of black leadership, and they had no choice in the matter. If we can rid society of racism, which was the socio-economic roots of moral degeneracy, then I believed our people would thrive in proportion to the success ratio every other ethnic group enjoyed in the country. However, our talented tenth drowned themselves in cultural elitism and ignored their mission, and I believe when you look down there, you see the division of those who were fortunate to be educated and the millions who were forgotten. The forgotten ones are now beginning to show their resentment in terrible ways”.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett sits straight up and looks at all the others.

“Truth be told, while you all were pondering all these problems in your Ivory Towers our boys and men were being lynched by a mob of white beasts. In light of all the lynching of our boys and raping of our girls, I just don’t understand how you could be content with your accommodationist approach to our problems Mr. Washington. We needed more fighters and less accommodators. I believe we women were more aware of the evils of the other race than were any of you men. At your university, you trained our young girls to be domestics and go into these white homes and clean their filth, take care of their babies, cook their meals, and by the way fight off the advances made by their men, when alone in the room with them. Then we had to come home and take care of our own family. We have always carried the burden of this race and as we observe what is happening today, we are still carrying the responsibility of family. Over the centuries, the burden has gotten heavier. Now we are confronted with a real crisis. At this time in history, after one-hundred-fifty-three years of freedom, whose approach to our survival worked. Of course, we did not try your approach, Dr. DeLany. Most of our people were not going to leave their homes and go back to Africa or anywhere else in the world. Home right here, as difficult as it may have been, was still comfortable and safe to them.”

Fannie Lou Hamer could remain silent no longer. She looks across the table at Dr. DuBois.

“I grew up in the cotton fields of Mississippi. There was more of our people like me than like that group of educated elites that you preached were necessary to save the race. According to you and your people, Dr. DuBois, I guess it was a white man’s education that was the answer to all our problems, but I don’t think it turned out quite that way. We found out down here that his education was not meant to assist us but to suppress us with lies. Then I guess you know them educated ones, that was supposed to come back and teach and assist us, never showed up. They were too busy building their fortune to be concerned with our plight. Class separated us from them just like skin color divided the black from the white. As we constantly get reports from new arrivals here, the class war fare among ourselves is becoming more devastating than what whites can now do. And I’m sorry to have to bring up the problem with the churches and religion. But we all know that when our people first came out of slavery, they put all their hopes in the church with the belief that it would deliver them to a good place. But what the ministers tended to do was deliver themselves to a good place. They failed to teach our people that they must learn to love themselves before they can love someone else. They would preach love your neighbor as yourselves being totally oblivious to the reality of the struggle. We didn’t love ourselves.”

Dr. DeLany now takes control of the discussion since he had been designated as discussion leader by the Higher Source.

“I think we all recognize that we made mistakes during our times as leaders of our culture. However, we need not be so hard on ourselves. We did manage to survive, and it was our fellow brothers and sisters that still made it up the rough side of that mountain and got our people to the place they are now, and it isn’t all bad. It was because of our efforts over a period of one hundred or more years, that finally we were able to get a Black president elected. That was no small accomplishment at all. We can only hope that the country down below does not fall back into bad habits with this new man who claims he wants to make “American Great Again.” I do know if each and everyone of us could return to America we would make it quite clear that the one thing that should not happen is that it will be made great again. Because before just wasn’t that great. Our session has now come to an end and we must all return to our respective responsibilities in this world which we all agree, with no questions is far superior to the one we left down there”.

Like a major blue curtain, the sky covers the window to Heaven and we are returned to our own reality. However, we will return at a later date and time when the sky spreads open like the Red Sea and we will have the pleasure to view and listen to conversations from Heaven once again.

LIFE

On May 13 of this year I turned seventy-eight, and a horrendous feeling of panic shot through my mind and body. I recognized that I was entering the twilight time of my existence here on earth. For the very first time I felt old. I wasn’t sure if I should stop all that I was still trying to accomplish and settle into a pastoral sense of comfort, and patiently wait for the great crossover. But it didn’t take long for me to jettison that attitude, and acknowledge it was not the years that counted, but the LIFE you have lived. With that transformation of thought, I began to examine those events, both good and bad; happy and sad that I have experienced.

I now recognize that I was blessed to have lived in one of the most exciting decades in this country’s history, and that was the 1960’s. LIFE became quite invigorating and full of promises as Black Americans and their supporters of all races, stood up and confronted evil directly in its face. I must admit my close friends and I living in Los Angeles, California did not join in the great civil rights fight that began as early as 1956 and continued to grow and expand throughout that decade, and into the next. After all we were in sunny California going to college, pledging into fraternities, and dating as many young girls as possible. What did we have in common with oppression in the South.

I can recall quite clearly when that attitude began to change in my thinking and behavior. It happened in June 1963 when Medgar Evers was shot down in his driveway, simply for advocating voting rights for my people who should have long ago enjoyed that privilege. It was also in the hot summer of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama when Police Commissioner Eugene Bull Connors turned the dogs loose on Black men, women and children marching for equality. It was in 1965 on the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama when white men (Highway Patrol) hired to protect Black marchers, instead beat them.

I began to recognize the nexus that joined all Black people throughout this country and that was a hatred for us, regardless where you lived, including California. That evil was as old as this country and as far wide as the from ocean to ocean. The evil became more intense as great leaders like Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told us that we must fight back, granted through different means, but still a fight.

   

Then in February 1965, Black folks living in California on the West Coast, received the news that Malcolm X had been assassinated in New York on the East Coast. Living still in Los Angeles, my awareness continued to grow because I realized that the distances between the two coasts was minimal, and of no importance. Malcolm X. belonged to us, as well as Blacks throughout the entire country. That nexus grew stronger. I could relate to the late-great Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions singing “People get ready. There’s a train a coming. Picking up passengers from coast to coast” That was the train that had room for all of us to get on board and join in the struggle to fight the evil. My awareness was reaching the point of extreme intensity.

My next turning point that essentially sealed the deal for me, occurred on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated from a bullet fired by the evil that just doesn’t seem to die. I recognized then, no matter what you do in life as a career, a Black man must always be aware of the battle he confronts. Nothing should surpass our commitment to that struggle. I do not today, nor have I ever considered myself a leader, but when I read the Autobiography of Paul Robeson, one paragraph stuck with me. He wrote: “The primary quality that Black leadership must possess…is a single-minded dedication to their people’s welfare. Any individual Black man or woman, like any other person, may have many varied interests in life, but for the true leader all else must be subordinated to the interests of those whom they are leading.” I would change the word “leader” to any committed Black, and that clearly defines me in my seventy-eighth year.

That is why my temporary submission to age overwhelmed me, but only for a moment’s time. Then my commitment to LIFE and what it can be from this day on took control. My compilation of experiences, I believe, places me in a unique position to examine our past as Black folks, and suggest what our future should look like. That LIFE is now committed to using my knowledge of our history of struggle, oppression, victory, and courage to join forces with some very talented people to produce a movie on Black Wall Street and the evil that destroyed it on June 1, 1921. And that evil has lived long after its dastardly act, almost one hundred years ago.

With the election of Donald Trump that evil is now feeling encouraged that it has been re-energized and given new life. There is nothing great about what Trump and his ilk represent. I would imagine that class of Americans that practically idolize him, would find nothing wrong with the massacre and destruction that engulfed Black citizens back then. But I am willing to bet that Trump’s followers do not represent the majority of my fellow citizens, after all he lost the popular vote. We must all commit to stopping this evil’s momentum before it again gets out of control as it did in Tulsa in 1921.And that is why I am dedicating my time to put together a team to bring the story of Black Wall Street and its destruction (as I did in my novel, Fires of Greenwood: Tulsa Riot of 1921) to the big screen about the same time as the one-hundredth year of the dastardly act.

I have been blessed with a close friendship with Laurel Stradford, the great granddaughter of J. B. Stradford, the richest Black and a leader on Black Wall Street; and with one of this country’s top photographers out of New York, Adger Cowans, along with an additional team of colleagues, to produce this story. We are committed to telling that story our way. After all my years here on earth (my LIFE), I truly believe that is the way it should be done.