Friday, November 25, 2011

Post Giving-Thanks Day Friday

Pictured, Dr. Daisy Century of Philadelphia who presented an outstanding historical monologue of Sojourner Truth's life.

I cling to my right to walk to the Post Office,the same way my wife claims her right to maintain her Driver’s License. I don’t walk like I used to; she does not drive unless she has to. So, when I have a sunny mid-fifties post-Thanksgiving Friday, I take full advantage while the sun shines and the weather holds.

The Post Office, across from Kellogg’s Corporate Headquarters, is a 3 ½ mile walk that I used to do in something under an hour, in the midst of a busy day. It now takes me something over an hour and I take a pain pill before launching.

En route home, I found myself at Monument Park, across from 1st Methodist Church. I observed 3 carloads of African-Americans receiving some kind of lecture from a person obviously addressing the group. Noting the Illinois tag, I surmised they were visitors present for the Sojourner Truth Observance.

Before they left Monument Park, I feel certain they walked over to the 12’ bronze statue of Sojourner Truth nearby. It is a place where I have often stopped to meditate in my own sojourn.I had not known of Sojourner until I moved to Battle Creek in 1973, but it did not take me long to learn that she is the city’s most famous personage, along with Dr. John Kellogg.

Kellogg had the advantage of being white and free, a brilliant medical doctor and a prominent 7th Day Adventist, the man who pioneered breakfast cereals.Sojourner, on the other hand, had the disadvantage of being born black, and a slave, as well as illiterate.

Once she determined that God had not created her for slavery, her slave days were numbered. One day she walked away. She fled to the Quakers, where she learned more about her human birthright. Eventually, she discovered the Methodists, where she learned more about holiness, and she responded to the call of God upon her life--a holiness preacher.

Over the past three decades, I have read Sojourner’s autobiography and numerous other biographies about her. None, more than Nell Painter, catches for me the significance of this humble black female, and former slave. The Princeton historian, describes her as, “Pentecostal that she was, Truth would have explained that the force that brought her from the soul murder of slavery into the authority of public advocacy was the power of the Holy Spirit … Without doubt, it was Truth’s prestigious faith that transformed her from Isabella [Bomfrey], a domestic servant, into Sojourner Truth, a hero for three centuries - at last” (Painter/SOJOURNER TRUTH, A LIFE, A SYMBOL/Norton/2000/4).

Two of the three bronze tablets behind Sojourner in Monument Park remind the public:
“… and Truth shall be my abiding name.”
Another concludes: “Lord, I have done my duty and I have told the truth and kept nothing back.”

Sojourner Truth withheld nothing as she became a simple holiness preacher, woman’s rights advocate, one of the first of a long line of abolitionists, and the first person to bring national prominence to Battle Creek in the late 1800s, following her first visit in 1857.

On this post-Thanksgiving Friday, I view Sojourner Truth as a person who changed her name and spent her life in pursuit of truth. In that pursuit, she maintained her integrity, limited as she was by race and illiteracy. Her life shines like the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, a beacon of truth pointing out the beauty and blessing of being born American. Her achievements, moreover, reflect the overwhelming redemption found in the Christian Faith.

Tomorrow I hope to be in the audience of those “Celebrating the Legacy of Sojourner Truth” at 2nd Baptist church. Dr. Daisy Century of Philadelphia will present an “Historical Reenactment” from Sojourner’s life, along with other community responses.One person I am certain will be there is Tommie McCleichey, 5th generation descendant of Sojourner, and my friend, with whom I worship on many Sunday mornings at North Avenue Church.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, Bless His Holy Name …
From Warner’s World,

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