Yesterday, Rev. Murphy Davis and I were in Milledgeville, Georgia, on our monthly prison trip. We transport families, lovers and friends to visit those locked away.
Through the center of the city, the old Confederate capital of slaveholding Georgia, marched a band of deformed white people. They were celebrating the birthday of one of their gods, General Robert E. Lee. Young and old were attired in Confederate uniforms, carrying rifles or flags, smirking at those of us who raised our voices in protest.
Yet this display of twisted logic and hateful history is my heritage. I carry the blood of slaveholding families and Confederate military officers. By the grace of God, I heard the cry of the oppressed 50 years ago. I prayed, “There must be some way outta’ here.” And a door was opened for me and my deformed life.
Thirty years ago, Dr. Ndugu T’Ofori-Atta blossomed into my life. Grace abounds. He came to a soil already being plowed, and still being plowed today, by Martin Luther King Jr., the Concerned Black Clergy, Vincent Harding, Rev. Timothy McDonald III, my pastor, and First Iconium Baptist Church, among many, several of whom are in this holy gathering today.
Today I remember in thanksgiving and testify in this congregation of thanksgiving and mourning to Dr. T’Ofori-Atta’s life-giving gift from the waters of Africa to the rivers of America. This “Just Another Brother” said quietly and profoundly to me and Murphy Davis and the Open Door Community, “Yes, yes. You can come to a new life in Jesus Christ.” We brought his Christ Kwanza into our Advent lives.
Dr. T’Ofori-Atta instructed me in gentle loving ways and profound teachings that empowered me to climb up the rough side of the mountain beyond myself. Me, Jim Crow born and bred, white privilege oozing from my pores, racist by political policies, prejudiced by cultural formation. He, “Just Another Brother,” said, “Yes, yes, climb up, you can, you are better than your white deformation.” Through him I was given new life, new vision, and a mouthful of the Beloved Community.
He lives in my life, our lives. He lives in the welcome to the stranger and outcast, Black and white, at the Open Door Community’s front door. He lives when we sit down visiting on death row waiting with a brother for the lynching tree to kill another child of God. Through him, with him, for him, this brother of mine, I say — and do we not all say? — “Yes, yes, God almighty, yes!” African, African-American, Jesus Christ, Black and white together, Yes we say to the everlasting vision of the Beloved Community, which lives in you and me in the everlasting life of our beloved Ndugu T’Ofori-Atta.
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