Tuesday, September 20, 2011

If Not Us, then Who?



Yesterday, I took my husband's mother and grandmother to visit the Little Rock Central High School Historic Site. In my September 13th blog post, A Modern-Day Civil Rights Hero, I briefly discussed the legendary Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. This historic U.S. Supreme Court decision to segregate public schools was first put to the test on the morning of September 23, 1957, when nine brave African American students -- with heads held high and hearts pounding -- walked through an angry mob of protesters and entered the doors of Little Rock High School for the first time.

In the year I've lived in Arkansas, I've visited Central High School at least five times and the museum at least four. Each time I walk away with a different prevailing theme. Yesterday was no exception. This museum, free to visitors, boasts historical facts, live videos, photos and famous quotes from that era. As a writer, I love the quotes, and yesterday one in particular really stood out to me.
"If not us, then who? If not now, then when?"
Those words were attributed to John Lewis, a famous Civil Rights leader and former Freedom Rider. Those words resonated within my spirit. Those words motivated me to write this post.
John Lewis originally spoke these words about fifty years ago, in the heat of the Civil Rights era. And yet those words ring true for us today. A lot has changed since those days, but has enough changed? 

As an African American I am no longer forbidden to attend any school of my choice. And yet I sat in a school board meeting two weeks ago, listening to the angry cries of parents that didn't want their children rezoned to another school. One mother stated that she and her husband had built their home in their particular neighborhood, because they had chosen specific schools for their children. Several other parents chimed in, disgusted that their children would have to attend the supposed second-best middle school in the city.

Now, let me first say, my husband and I too chose a neighborhood largely for its premier schools. I could see where this concerned mother was coming from. However, we had just heard the superintendent of schools express the reasons behind the school rezoning. In addition to a growing population and the need to transfer children over to a brand new elementary school, the school board had decided to balance the schools economically. The goal: that no school would be labeled the "poor school" or the "rich school" of the city.

When I heard the motives behind the redistricting, my heart aligned with the hearts of our school board members. I thought of the many families unable to build a home in the neighborhood of their choice. I thought of how much benefit there is in people of different economic statuses, races and cultures attending the same school. The bottom line is, we all need one another.

On this past Sunday, the Conway campus of my church, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas celebrated our new church location. It was a joy to look out on the sea of people of different hues and cultures. We are different people from different economic and racial backgrounds worshiping and praising the one true and living God. 

It's always a blessing to me to live out "heaven on earth" every Sunday. After all, when we get a glimpse of heaven in the Word of God we see a beautiful picture of God's people from a kaleidoscope of colors:
"And they sang a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'" Revelations 5:9
In 2011, my heart resonates with the heart of John Lewis, as I ask Christians all over our country and world -- If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If we, as God's precious sons and daughters, don't choose to walk, work and worship with people of different races and financial standing, then who will? If we don't start intentionally reaching out to people of different races and financial standing, then when will we? 

In the novel and film The Help we saw African American and Caucasian women connected by profession. These forced relationships were borne out of employment, between hired servants and their bosses. When will we break out of the mold of our country's history and move beyond connecting with one another only through the workplace. When will we invite one another into our homes, not as employer and employee, but as friends. When will we choose to do life together? 

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

I leave you with a video I saw this week that displays the Kingdom of God on earth. In this video, a homeless man joins in to sing with a man shooting a Christian music video. It's breathtaking. It displays the heart of God. (Click here to view)

Living for Justice and Mercy,

Carla

2 comments:

  1. Amen sister! Thank you for keeping us updated about the situation in Arkansas and for reminding us of God's truth through your powerful words and this amazing video!

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  2. Thanks Susann. I appreciate your feedback!

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