Time to revisit the dream

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 15, 2007

The past week has been surreal to say the least.

It started with my finding out about the passing of Representative Howard Hunter Jr. and Senator Robert Holloman while in the middle of the Gates County Commissioners meeting and ended with my attendance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at Indian Woods Baptist Church Sunday night.

The creator conspiring to have the State General Assembly representatives of this region both pass away within 24 hours of each other was my first sign that I should be paying close attention to the universe as it began to unfold in front of me.

Scheduling issues kept me from attending Mr. Hunter’s funeral service, but I did mange to get out to Nebo Baptist Church for Mr. Holloman’s ceremony.

When I arrived in North Carolina almost two years ago, I planned on staying for a few weeks and then I was headed back to Atlanta, Georgia to continue working in the chemical engineering field where I had become very proficient prior to my North Carolina move.

The opportunity to write for the Herald, while resulting in an extreme cut in pay, offered me what I thought was just an opportunity to get my name in print, a lifelong dream.

Little did I know that I was being given an opportunity to, no, the privilege of receiving a history of being black in North Carolina without ever having to leave Ahoskie.

The first man of prominence to give me a lesson was the late Rochelle Vann who taught me that even when our nation had barely figured out how to have blacks and whites walk on the same side of the street, a black man could still muster the strength and courage to leave rural North Carolina and go the New York City to study before going off and fighting for his country, even though he had to ride in the back of the plane to get to the war.

The second man of prominence that I had the pleasure to meet was Representative Hunter, who always seemed to know the exact choice of words to use when discussing the maturation of blacks in the region.

It was Hunter who helped me understand the importance of Mr. Vann.

It was Senator Holloman who I had the most experience with, however, as I covered several speaking engagements and award presentations featuring the late Senator and Pastor.

That’s why attending his funeral, and the timing of it all, struck me as a bit deliberate, in a godly kind of way.

I will never accomplish a smidgen of what those three gentlemen have in my lifetime.

Yet, it took me almost forty years, a divorce, run-ins with the law and several trips around the globe to understand what those gentlemen meant not only to me, but also to all black Americans.

Today when I speak of racism, usually it is due to isolated incidents of bigotry by individuals with an axe to grind.

The three gentlemen I have spoke of here managed to not only succeed, but achieve at a high level in the face of institutionalized racism at all levels of U.S. government, law enforcement and society in general.

Yet, whenever I spoke to any of these men, they only had positive things to say about their fellow Americans.

Sunday night, I figured out why.

As I listened to speaker after speaker recount stories of Dr. King during the civil rights movement I realized why, as I grew up in abject poverty, so many black men who were not my father, fed me, clothed me, gave me rides and offered advice and words of encouragement.

It was because they could see the future and they realized that after they had moved on, if they had not laid down a foundation for their sons and daughters to follow, all would be lost.

They were more correct than they realized.

We, black people, are losing what our ancestors died so hard to gain and I don’t mean the right to vote, the right to speak or even the right to bear arms.

What black people have lost more than anything is our unified spirit.

This unified spirit I speak of started on the slave ships from Africa when tens of millions of Africans were forced to look into each other’s eyes and understand that unless they wanted this to happen again, there had better be a unified voice.

That is how we got Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, Marcus Garvey and eventually Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks and of course Dr. King.

The early Negroes never lived to see the fruit of their labor, but they died knowing that they had done all they could do.

This week I had the pleasure of recounting the works of three black Americans who had done all they can do.

The question now is; who shall follow their lead?

The stakes now are higher than ever.

Failure now is unacceptable because we have a couple of generations coming up who have been misinformed and improperly programmed.

So as much as we all love Dr. King, Mr. Hunter and Mr. Holloman, we’d better start to not only love them, but rather be them.

Or Dr. King’s dream will quickly turn into a nightmare.

Peace, God bless.