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HERE'S What Tom Says About THAT
For the past two and a half years I have worked for a non-profit organization I’ve been part of since it was formed almost 10 years ago. Coming to the Table is a committed and growing group of people providing leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.
I’m currently reading The Children by David Halberstam and today read a statement by which Civil Rights Icon, and U.S. Congressman, John Lewis was profoundly moved. “The Beloved Community” jumped out at Lewis in the early 1960’s. “The Beloved Community” jumped out at me from the page of this powerful book today.
From The Children – “It was not a utopia, but it was a place where the barriers between people gradually came down and where the citizenry made a constant effort to address even the most difficult problems of ordinary people. It was above all else an ever idealistic community. It became a permanent part of Lewis’s vision of what he believed he was working toward.”
I’ve been involved with Coming to the Table for the past decade because I have witnessed the barriers between people gradually come down. I have witnessed folks making a constant effort to address the most difficult problems of ordinary people. In the most difficult times and circumstances that can lead to hopelessness, Coming to the Table gives me hope.
Together we can build The Beloved Community.
Before I signed a contract with Beacon Press to publish my first book, the working title of my manuscript was The Immeasurable Distance Between Us.
I envisioned the cover of my book long before publication, with an image of a young teacher from Chicago and me walking side-by-side in Accra during the Panafest Pan African Historical Festival. Visualized it. Printed it. Framed it. Then signed a contract with Beacon Press and the title changed to Inheriting the Trade.
That’s all to the good. I trust my publisher and the book has done (and continues to do) well in getting into the hands of readers.
And today, July 4, 2015, I look at the image of my envisioned book cover that still hangs in my office. And I think about all I’ve learned over the past 15 years. Earlier in my life I didn’t think much about Independence Day, or Columbus Day, or Thanksgiving… just enjoyed them, or partied with friends or family, or whatever. Now, thanks to new friends, authors and others who challenge my thinking, such commemorations have become far more complicated in my mind. I don’t celebrate them much anymore. I think about what’s behind and beneath them.
My initial chosen book title comes from a speech given by Frederick Douglass on July 4, 1852 in Rochester, New York.
Sadly, much of what Mr. Douglass spoke about 163 years ago remains true today. Racism and injustice are alive and well. Florida. Missouri. New York. Maryland. Since 9 of our African-descended brothers and sisters were assassinated by a racist terrorist two weeks ago in Charleston, South Carolina, 7 black churches have burned. None of this is an attack on Christianity. It is an attack on black people. If you are white and don’t understand this fact, you haven’t read my books. Please do.
I hope you are as troubled and contemplative about Independence Day (and certain other American holidays) as I am.