Do You Remember?

September 15th, 1963.  In Birmingham, Alabama, four men: fathers, brothers, uncles, met that Sunday morning, probably had a bit of breakfast, gassed up their car and headed for their destination, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

At about the same time, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, both 14, Denise McNair, 11, and Sarah Collins Rudolph, 12, and her sister Addie Mae Collins, 14 were getting dressed. They would all meet at their destination, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Pastor John Cross’s lesson for Sunday School was “A Love That Forgives.” Just after the beginning of Sunday School, the five men arrived, and did not enter the church. They went to the steps of the church, placed a package underneath and left. Within a short time the package exploded with tremendous force, ripping through the side of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Its force tore a huge part of the church out; scattered everything in its path.

The four men, Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, were not to be seen. Carole, Cynthia, Addie Mae and Denise lay dead among the rubble and Sarah Collins was seriously wounded, her injuries including the loss of one eye.

In the same place at the same time – four men – all members of the same club, so full of hate, so doing the devils work. Five innocent little girls, angels on loan from our Lord in Heaven joining together in his house.

These men, all members of the Ku Klux Klan would remain free for far too many years. Robert Chambliss was convicted in 1977 and died in prison in 1985. Thomas Blanton was convicted in 2001 and is serving a life term. Bobby Cherry was convicted in 2002, and died two years later in prison serving a life term. Herman Cash was never convicted and died in 1994, never having served time for his deed.

Sarah Collins Rudolph testified against Thomas Blanton in his 2001 trial. Sarah said, “God spared me to live and tell just what happened on that day.” And yesterday, fifty years later, Sarah was at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to lay a wreath in remembrance.

At the 9:30 Sunday School session, the current pastor, Rev. Arthur Price, taught the lesson intended for September 15th, 1963: “A Love That Forgives.” And during the service yesterday, Julius Scrubbs of Huntsville, Alabama, president of the National Baptist Convention USA, said “God said you may murder four little girls, but you won’t murder the dream of justice and liberty for all.”

I wonder if those four little angels were remembered in other churches yesterday?

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The task is not yet finished

Yesterday we heard emotional speeches by five national leaders and patriots. The words of Presidents Obama, Clinton and Carter, along with John Lewis, should remind us of the battle not yet won.

Yes, thanks to leaders such as those who were present, we have made great strides in righting the wrongs of so many years – those which we did not want to acknowledge existed. The four I have mentioned stood tall and proud, each working in their own way to right the wrongs that so many of our brothers and sisters endured.

The fifth voice was a voice silenced before its time – a voice that everyone who stood on that great Mall in Washington or who listened across our great country was able to summon, once more hearing those words…”I have a dream, that one day all men will be free.”

Even if it is no longer with us, that voice will never truly be silenced.  No bullet can ever still that voice or the words of Martin Luther King.

May we always have leadership that truly believes all men and women: black, white, Asian, Mexican – any and all races –  shall feel this country is big enough for all to come to work, enjoy life and add the different shade of beauty each brings to enhance our rainbow.

As Christians our hearts should be so full of love we have no room for hate. Only those who are misguided, misinformed, mean-spirited, or just plain stupid would defy our Heavenly Father, who said we all are God’s children, sisters and brothers together. God’s words are good enough for me. How about you? Are you picking and choosing that which is easy to do and calling yourself a Christian or do you truly follow God’s words and live by his words?

Remembering MLK

From the Lodge at Oxmoor…….

Dr. Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”

I am aware that I am seven days early for Dr. King’s day but I have a reason. I would like to ask my readers who have children or grandchildren to take some time and sit down with them or encourage them to use their computer or other electronic devices to look up the life, accomplishments, and work of Dr. King.

It is important that our young people know about the work of Dr. M.L. King. Through his strong faith and love of God, he believed that our great country could not survive unless all men enjoyed freedom, and the right to peruse their dreams and ambitions. “Injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.” (April 16th, 1963). Dr. King was never an advocate of violence. He had utter disdain for any form of hate or violence. He wanted a world where peace and love could bring men together as brothers, saying “We must learn to live together as brothers or die together as fools.”

Dr. Martin Luther King was born at the King family home in Atlanta, Georgia. He was well-educated and entered college at age fifteen, having skipped two grades in school. He graduated from Morehouse College and from Cozer Seminary with a Bachelor’s Degree of Divinity. He became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. During his short lifetime he was honored with some fifty honorary degrees.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter presented Dr. King a posthumous Presidential Medal of Honor. President Carter said “he made the nation stronger, because he made it better.”

On April 3rd, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke these words: ” I just want to do God’s work; he has allowed me to see the promised land. I may not get there with you. Tonight I am a happy man. . .I fear no man.”  These are words he spoke on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, at 6:01 p.m. as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel. He was 39 years old.

I do believe Dr. King took us all, every man and woman, to that promised land where love well always defeat hate. He took us all to the top of the mountain to witness the love of all mankind. The work of good men will always be threatened by those who allow themselves to become intolerant, and void of acceptance and love for anyone of a different color, different manner of dress, language, religion, politics, or lifestyle.

Reflecting On the Schools

From the lodge at Oxmoor…

Just this past week there was a lengthy article in our local paper about our Jefferson Country Public School System. Since I was a volunteer for some 20 years in our schools and an employee for 26 years, I am very interested in any and all news about our schools. The article was about the continued growth in our student enrollment. It seems enrollment has passed the 100,000 mark and is still growing. Various educators were voicing opinions about why this is happening when many urban school systems across the country are losing students.

Some local educators surmised it was because of the economy – that private school tuition has increased and parents have turned to the public schools for their children’s schooling. I don’t think it is quite that simple. I agree with their reasoning somewhat, but parents could also be enrolling in the public schools because of new, meaningful programs being offered and the overall positive atmosphere in our schools.

There are some parents who want their children to stay near home for school, while sending them far afield for soccer practice, dancing lessons, overnight slumber parties and other activities. Within that small group there are those who want to force the Board of Education to dismantle our desegregation plan that is in its 36th year.

In a perfect world, schools centered within neighborhoods would be preferred for all children. However, in the world that is, for children to experience living in the diversity they will encounter as they prepare to work, live, and have their own children in today’s world, the desegregation of schools was necessary. Neighborhoods were not going to be racially mixed in the proportion needed to accomplish that diversity. At best over some 30 years only some neighborhoods have made small changes in their makeup and not enough to effect large changes.

The other issue about the necessity of busing is this: each child is supposed to receive an equal education in our country. When schools began to receive court orders to desegregate this was not happening. It was a proven fact that school buildings were not equal, staffing was not equal, equipment including books, science gear and other hands-on equipment was not the same in quality or quantity in each school. This was totally unacceptable and so changes had to be made. Now, as a number of school systems are attempting to go back to the neighborhood school concept, if that is the result I would only hope all parents will be vigilant and never let that injustice happen again.

Most parents are very proud of our public schools here. Are they perfect? Of course not, however, they are and have always tried to be a good school system. There are many different entities that make up a good school system.

A good school system is made up of good schools. Each school is like a family. The family is the Principal, the staff of teachers, the support groups, the office staff, the lunch room staff, the custodial staff, bus drivers, and last, but certainly not the least important, the parents who volunteer on a regular basis in so many ways. In our JCPS here in Louisville, we have been blessed with a wonderful, dedicated Fifteenth District PTA that has PTA representation in almost every school.

Each of the groups that make up a school family are important – one to the other and all to the benefit of the student body. As the captain of the ship, the principal sets a tone of respect and provides guidance for the school family. A happy staff that feels appreciated will, in return, go beyond the call of duty, and the children will be the benefactors.

Just as important, a principal who welcomes parents and promotes the inclusion of a strong PTA in the school will reap untold benefits. Those parents will become the best public relations program you and your school could ever have.

During my many years of volunteering I had the privilege of working with principals who knew the value of parent participation in their school and welcomed the help. I also was involved with principals who tolerated parents but with much less enthusiasm. I tried to not to let acceptance (or the lack thereof) of the PTA’s presence in that school influence my decision to be involved in my child’s school: I accepted it as a privilege but also my RIGHT to be involved.

So , if you visit one of our schools, take time to say “Thank You” to a member of the school family and if you have a child in the school and have some extra time, there is no greater gift than to volunteer and help a child.

And by all means, join a PTA.