Picturethis: There’s a beautifully manicured house a few blocks from yours. The hedges are lit up with Christmas lights. A new BMW is parked in the driveway. Just outside the door, there’s a nice 11’/24’ picture of your neighbor’s son on a poster donning his black and yellow basketball uniform. All is well right? Well, yesterday you learned that the house, which was empty at the time, was burglarized.
Sometime between a Sunday afternoon nap, raking leaves from my yard and watching NFL games in my “man cave” yesterday, I received the following message from my friend Troy from Houston, an emerging author. I read it several times and immediately determined that it must be shared broadly:
Yesterday my wife and I stopped at a local 7-Eleven to gas up her car. The card reader on the pump didn’t work, so I headed inside to pay for the gas. While I was inside, a white male in his mid-50’s drove up in front of the car and got my wife’s attention. She rolled her window down and this man told her that she had a dent in the back of her car. She opened the car door and was about to get out as I walked up. She told me what the guy had said about the dent. I looked at the car and said, “What dent?” He got out of his truck, came and looked at the back and said, “My eyes must have been playing tricks on me.” Got back in his truck and drove off.
His name is Stan Maclin. He lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, having moved there 20 years ago. He is the founder and curator of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in that city.
It should come as no surprise then that Maclin’s Center has garnered national attention and many phone calls ignited by the recently released movie “Harriett,” the story of Harriett Tubman who single handedly made many forays deep into the south to free slaves.
When asked why he started the Center, in words that undoubtedly flowed from his mouth hundreds of times over the years, Maclin said that he wanted to open a place where African Americans can learn about their history, identity, and culture. He wanted to be able the educate future generations so that history does not repeat itself.
Perhaps it’s attributable in part to shifting demographics, which has attracted people from across the globe, but there’s no denying the growth in cultures that have permeated Douglas and surrounding Georgia counties, their schools, businesses and neighborhoods. And that growth has been accompanied by an increase in the number of accents and the challenges that come with communicating through accent differences.
No matter how hard I work at it, I often struggle attempting to communicate with someone with a “heavy” accent. Am I alone? A situation a few years ago, one that left me feeling woefully incompetent, made this poignantly clear. Here’s what happened. Tell me if it resonates.
In one of his legendary “folks, let’s not air our dirty laundry” features, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts began a recent column, “Blacks, too, judge each other by the color of their skin. How sick is that?” with this loaded old folk saying:
“If you’re white, you’re all right. If you’re brown, stick around. If you’re black, get back.”
Now the funny – well, no, maybe not always so funny – thing is that every now and then someone will put something out that makes you reflect on your own experience relative to that issue. And that old saying from my past is one.
“… You can call it fate or call it destiny. Sometimes it seems like a mystery. Timing is everything!” ~ Garrett Hedlund
Fate? …Destiny? … I cannot explain it.
You see, someone recently sent me a quick read on courageous acts by courageous people. “So, are you trying to tell me something?” I thought to myself while putting the piece aside. Now by coincidence – or destiny? – I remembered that Deborah Levine and Marc Brennan are about to release their long-awaited book, “When Hate Groups March Down Main Street.”
All that said, days later I received the following story from “Mariah,” that provided an opportunity for me to pull all these pieces together:
Tina Turner and the late Michael Jackson. Entertainment icons. Life in the limelight. Adoring fans by the millions. And tons of money. During their heyday, life couldn’t have been any better for them, right?
BREAKINGNEWS: Using slurs to make a point sparks debate on academic freedom. Emory University law professor Robert Saunooke said he tells his students before the start of his first class that there are words and phrases he’ll use that might be uncomfortable (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 9/19/19). And he delivered on that promise by uttering the “N-Word” a couple of times.
As sheer coincidence would have it, I’d just finished rereading Dr. King’s famous “Letter from A Birmingham Jail” when the following excerpts of a letter from my good friend “Shirley” popped up in my email:
Dear Pastor, I first want to say that I have benefitted from your sermons since I have been a part of your congregation. I, however, have some concerns that prompted me to write to you. I know that my political beliefs aren’t necessarily in line with a large portion of the congregation. I knew that when I first started worshipping here but I didn’t perceive it to be a concern. I believed this to be true because I try to look at people and issues and determine the best course of action based upon all that I hear, read, observe and analyze. Based on that process, I pray that I know what is the most prudent to address and decisions to make.
It was 25 minutes before our restaurant was scheduled to open. and I noticed three casually dressed African American young men enter the patio. One peered through the front window, saw that we weren’t yet open and joined the others on the patio. They remained there talking and laughing loudly until we opened.