Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Taking A Stand Means Not Being Silent

 


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated the following truth: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter most.”

In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, my family lived in Mobile, Ala. where my Dad was serving as the Senior Pastor at St. Marks United Methodist Church. The black leaders of the Civil Rights movement in Mobile requested to hold a peaceful rally and a march in support of voting rights and other issues of equality. The Mayor of Mobile, George McNally, who went to our church, met with the black leadership and my father who accompanied them to request the event. The Mayor was a good man but was very concerned about an outbreak of violence in those very tense days in the South. There were already city and state curfews and other restrictions in place in those days to help keep the peace. Though the Mayor was reluctant to allow the rally and the march, he told my dad that he would only grant permission for the rally and the march if my father helped them, participated in the rally, and marched with them.

Perhaps, the Mayor believed that if some of the white clergy participated along with the black clergy and leadership, there might be less chance of violence from the KKK and some other white supremacists who might be opposed to the peaceful gathering. The KKK was very active during this time.

Though my dad was a strong and outspoken advocate for Civil Rights during this time, I remember he was particularly concerned about this event happening in Mobile. Perhaps there had been specific threats made by the KKK or some other groups about this proposed rally and march. (I was just a kid and wouldn’t have known the details or fully understood the dangers.)

However, he put his own concerns for safety aside and agreed to do it. The rally and the march ended up being very successful and peaceful despite some protests and hecklers from the other side. I remember being very proud of him for having the courage to take a stand for what was right and risk losing church members and some friends in the process...which he did.

Soon after that event, the Mobile Register, for some strange reason, printed all the names of all the white pastors in the Mobile area who had signed a petition supporting Civil Rights for Blacks. They printed their home addresses and home phone numbers too. For several years after that we received harassing phone calls at our home, and often strangers would park across the street from our house and sometimes follow us at night. I remember my mom being afraid of the KKK and other white supremacist groups.

In recent weeks, the racial tension in our country has flared up yet again with the death of George Floyd. Peaceful protests and some violent riots have been the result. Calls for police reform and for our legislators to deal with systemic racism have resounded on the airways. Christian leaders and others have sought to address these issues through healthy conversations, prayer gatherings, and peaceful rallies. Personally, I have been apart of several different events, Race Relations Summits and prayer gatherings. Pastor Ken Austin and I did a message together one Sunday recently where we had a conversation about how we, as Christ followers, can be the change (view it at sjlife.com). Together, all of us will need to continue to come together for more conversations as we seek to take actions that help us move forward as a country and as a state.

My Dad was a great example to me, and I have never forgotten his legacy of standing up for others and not keeping silent about what is right! I pray that I will always be willing to take that stand and not be silent about the things that matter most!

 

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