The final stop on the first seven weeks of my book tour was coordinated by my mother. This past weekend I was at Pomona First Christian Church, the church I grew up in and where my parents have attended since before they were married there in 1951.
On Friday, February 22, I drove with my dad to Los Angeles where I was interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar, the host of Uprising, a popular daily radio program on KPFK, Pacifica Radio. I’m not sure when the interview will air (sometime in the next week or so), but when it does we’ll provide a link to it on our new “media coverage” page on the Inheriting the Trade website.
My mother went all out, as did the church pastors, Mike and Julie, to publicize my appearance on Saturday. Mom called or e-mailed pretty much everyone she knows. Beacon Press created a flyer for the event (which Mom and the church mailed out) and notified the local media, including the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (the newspaper, which I worked for as a teenager, put a notice in the paper on Friday; when you click on the link, scroll down to the second story).
At 10:00 on Saturday morning it was clear that everyone’s efforts paid off. Approximately 70 people showed up. Many are people I’ve known since I was a child but haven’t seen in decades. One, Debbie Blackwell (0kay, she may have a different name now, but I don’t know what it is) is about my age and there are home movies of the two of us together at my 3rd birthday party. Sheesh, Mom! I saw my cousin Dick for the first time in over 25 years. My kindergarten Sunday School teacher was there. She’s in her late 90’s. It was great seeing everyone; reconnecting.
Many people wept a bit during my presentation. I suspect it was a combination of the grief people experience when faced with the true legacy of slavery and the fact that little Tommy has grown up and is inviting people to confront such difficult issues. One man in the audience was Mr. Bailey, one of two black men in my church when I grew up. The chapter I wrote about him didn’t make it into the final version of the book. I may clean it up and put it onto my website one of these days. I read my rough version of the time when I spoke with Jim Bailey about Traces of the Trade. I asked him back in 2001 why he attended this all-white church. He told me that if anything was going to change it ought to begin in God’s house.
Okay, typing these words is my incentive. I’ll add this “missing chapter” to the website within the next couple of weeks.
Bottom line is that being at First Christian Church was incredible. I was surrounded by family and friends as well as many people I’ve never met before who were there because of my mom and dad and the church. Mom talked me into staying an extra day. The highlight was that Jim Bailey and I went out to breakfast together before church. I’ll write about it when I add the missing chapter to the website. Suffice it for now to say that my breakfast with Jim was another highlight in my life. I attended the Sunday service and sat between Mr. Bailey and my Aunt Net. Afterward my mom had a table set up for people to get the book who weren’t able to be there on Saturday. I was able to speak with, and embrace, many old friends (and a few new ones).
Then, after kissing Mom and Dad goodbye, I began the long drive home…