Monday, January 16, 2012

Today's the day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birth

I am, for a time, conducting the choir in the church I grew up in, Plymouth Congregational Church in NE Washington, DC.  Before I go any further, I have to say how strange and surreal it is to be conducting people who were the adults when I was in the youth choir.  I'm accustomed to looking up to these people. So when I became conductor I felt totally afeared - - that's afraid for those who may not speak southern or understand my made up words - -  that these people would take one look at me an' wanna just pinch my cheeks and not pay attention to anything I said.  But they have been lovely.

So yesterday at MLK Jr. sunday church service, I'm conducting the choir in an early morning practice.  I put on my choir robes.  Make sure the children are set with their grandmother.  The choir and I go up the steps to the choir loft and then we sit down.  I get myself together for the opening hymn, and I not only do I do a double take, but  a triple take.  Who in the hel--I'm mean heck-- are all these white people in the congregation?! Now the church has  a few white members, but there were SEVERAL PEWS worth of them in the narthex (that's the place where you worship for all you non-church going people out there, of which I should admit I myself have been one at several points in my life) and some of them were even up in the balcony! What is this?!  This is a Black church! We wear large, brightly colored hats and suits and wing tip shoes to church, not jeans or a dress that you would wear to school on a slightly dressy day; no khakis or boat shoes here.  What were these people doing in this church??

Then I thought for a moment.  Mine had been exactly the same reaction that white people in the past, and I'm sure sometimes in the present, had when they saw blacks or any other group of people that were different from them in the church (or basically any other place) where they congregated.  I thought again, "Wait…this is Martin Luther King, Jr Day. Shouldn't we be celebrating with all people?"  And the preacher said,"Martin Luther King, Jr didn't fight for a black utopia or heaven.  He fought and died for all people to be treated fairly in society…." Yeah…that's exactly right: Though it was important for black people to have advocated for the rights we are constitutionally supposed to enjoy, it was not important just because we are black; it was in spite of it.  ALL peoples should be able to pursue their lives in the manner they choose, in America.  We should be coming together on all days, but most especially on this day. Because it's a day that's really about all of us...

But, having said all that, why exactly were all them white people in the church? Ahhh you gotta wait for the follow up blog :)

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