During December, I was privileged to be the guest speaker at a Christmas Gala at First Baptist Church in Fulton.
There were about 125 women in attendance.
I shared my mother’s story of how she prepared me for integration in 1969. I also shared my personal testimony of how, in spite of our circumstances, tragedies, misfortunes or struggles in life – with the Lord’s help, we can be triumphant. I also attended a holiday production (”Mayberry Christmas”) at West Jackson Street Baptist Church in Tupelo. The Tupelo High School’s Drumline group, which included my son, was asked to perform in a scene featuring the “The Little Drummer Boy.”
At both of these events, I observed a paradigm shift of acceptance among the races. I saw and experienced a positive change in our way of thinking about each other. The women at First Baptist Church were all white; yet they embraced my message and opened their arms with love toward me. This was totally different from nearly 40 years ago as a little black girl plunged into integration and not being accepted because I was different.
The Mayberry Christmas play was very moving. In one scene, a gentleman had a beautiful voice and wanted to sing with the church choir. He was ostracized by church members because he was different. According to the members, his standard of dress and his status in life was not appropriate. However, at the end of the play, the church is redeemed – the outcast is allowed to attend and sing. The church is a wonderful place to channel and manifest love and the very place where one should receive acceptance, love and safety. If we take the love that’s taught in our churches into our places of employment, schools, etc. our society would be a better place to live in.
I sat there reliving that scene with thoughts twirling in my mind about people who, by the very nature of their births, happen to be different in color, socio- economic status, culture, etc. Because of those differences, individuals sometimes have not been accepted by others. I thought about redemption in our personal lives. We don’t have to follow the old pathways of hate and intolerance. We can do as the play implied – accept people as they are. In that sanctuary as the riveting scenes unfolded – differences didn’t matter.
As the play continued, the THS Drumline (consisting this particular night of all minorities) performed. The people in the sanctuary (majority white) leaped up, clapped and gave those young black men a standing ovation during their scene. Surging with emotion, I jumped to my feet along with the crowd and shouted, “Yes!” I thought, “This is how it should be – all of us celebrating and acknowledging our different gifts and talents.” Educator Adela Allen said, “We should acknowledge differences; we should greet differences, until difference makes no difference anymore.”
After the play, I left the sanctuary and entered the lobby. I greeted and talked to individuals – some I knew and some I didn’t know. A sweet spirit of love was in that church. A few days later, one of WJSBC members said, “I observed you talking to so many people. Did you know all those people you were hugging and talking too?” I said, “No. If we truly want to improve relationships – we must talk to each other. That night I left the play, went to my house and culture; you left and went to your house and culture; yet we came together for a common good. This just shows that we can get along with each other.”
She wholeheartedly agreed. Later that week, my son was wearing his Drumline jacket while sitting in an orthodontist’s office. He was approached by a white lady who asked him, “Did you perform in the Mayberry Christmas play?” He replied, “Yes.” Based on this shared commonality, a positive conversation between the two of them ensued.
Poet June Jordan said, “Maybe the purpose of our being here, wherever we are, is to increase the durability and the occasions of love among and between people.” As we traditionally make resolutions at the beginning of each year, perhaps this year we could make an afforded effort to lay aside our differences and be more accepting and supportive of each other.
The members of West Jackson Street Baptist and the ladies at First Baptist Church demonstrated love and acceptance. If we follow their examples – will it make a difference? You be the judge.
Contact community columnist Juanita G. Floyd at firstname.lastname@example.org, where she is vice president for finance.
Juanita G. Floyd