As we enter the last full week before the presidential election next Tuesday, I thought I would post a sober and reflective entry about “how we got over” thus far, and those who God has used thus far to exact change in the United States of America. ( will try anyway. I just love making people laugh!)
Last month at a journalism conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first black woman to attend the University of Georgia. As she spoke about race relations during this current election cycle and compared and contrasted it with her bittersweet experiences at UGA, she mentioned that she is the daughter and granddaughter of ministers. Since I, too, graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree, (I don’t care what you FAMU Rattlers say, I’m proud of my HWCU) and am the daughter and granddaughter of ministers, I knew I had to talk with her after her speech.
So as she signed my copy of her memoir In My Place, I asked her if she would be interested in being interviewed for my blog. She gave me her contact information and asked me to contact her later! But after a few weeks of playing phone tag, her daughter called me and told me that Mrs. Hunter-Gault was world traveling and wouldn’t be able to do the interview…oh well, you win some, you lose some…
However, I did read her book while I was on vacation, and I wanted to share some interesting passages in the book and my insights.
As I read her memoir, I was again reminded how the church has shaped many of the lives of American black heroes including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Benjamin Mays, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr. – and this is just a sampling… She wrote about being a part of her church’s annual Easter program, attending Vacation Bible School and traveling to church conventions – near and far. I can relate, I can relate. In another passage, she said, “the difference between my father and my grandfather as preachers was that my father was a minister – more cerebral, less theatrical.” That’s true for my Dad and my Grandpa (I know you’re in heaven, Grandpa!) too. She wrote about a grandmother that fasted and prayed on Fridays. My dear grandmother, who is now deceased as well, used to scare me when she prayed. First of all, she prayed in a stream of consciousness way and a sob seemed to be caught in throat as she prayed. I could actually picture her vocal chords quivering. Plus she was loud! I always thought if the Lord doesn’t answer her prayer “just now,” somebody needed to so she could stop…
There are also a lot of interesting pop culture details for voracious pop culturists in this book. For instance, Hunter-Gault attended Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Atlanta, which is still in existence today, where she listened to her first elementary school boyfriend, William, and his cousin, Gladys, sing in the “Sunbeam” choir. They also sang at the Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue on Saturday nights. (Y’all from the A know about the Royal Peacock!) Gladys, William and others later became Gladys Knight and the Pips!
I love history, but since I graduated from college, I haven’t been as motivated to read as many historical texts as I should. In reading this memoir, I was delighted to learn some Atlanta history that I probably should have known before now. For instance, civic and political leader John Wesley Dobbs, grandfather of the late Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, was said to the originator of the term “Sweet Auburn.” Dr. King Jr. grew up in the Auburn Avenue area, which was and is a symbol of black pride in the city. Big Bethel, which is decorated with the words “Jesus Saves” on its tower, was the site of Morris Brown College’s first classes.
While she was in high school, Hunter-Gault and her family lived in Alaska. I wonder if she could see Russia from her house. (Shout out to Gov. Palin!) Jokes aside, maybe moose meat ain’t all that bad. Hunter-Gault described sampling and actually enjoying it. Her grandmother prepared it by marinating it with vinegar and onions and “cooking the stew out of it.”
Hunter Gault also talked about her decision to pledge Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., which is, of course, the best sorority in the world! Of course, I’m bias! (OO-OOP MY SORORS!) “They represented the kind of woman I wanted to be: soft and appealing, clear-headed and strong without being strident. And I liked the fact that they seemed to have steady relationships with their boyfriends.”
When it came time to endure the jeering, taunting and even a gun-toting madman as she started her life at UGA, the voice of her grandmother reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm comforted her. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.”
I don’t know what’s in store this historic election and I don’t want to jinx anything, but even Hunter-Gault said she believes an aura surrounds Barack Obama. And a lady said to me yesterday that she feels that like our ancestors(a “cloud of witnesses” if you will) are gathering around here to see…it’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come…
P.S. Don’t forget to vote early. It ain’t a done deal yet! Barack the Vote!!!