I find myself surprisingly emotional on this Presidential election day, November 4th, 2008.
I am a white, Southern Baptist pastor’s son who grew up in Alabama and returned home to work in Birmingham about 15 years ago. I will vote this afternoon following work in my rural Brushy Pond Community Center in Cullman County, AL where we usually have 60 total people vote in a national election. My wife just called me in tears of joy after she became voter number 100 in the community center this morning at 8:00 a.m.
As many of you know, I was born in Selma, AL in 1955, grew up in Montgomery from 1960-1970, and went to high school in a Birmingham suburb from 1970-1973.
I was a five month old toddler learning how to crawl in Selma on December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks sat down in a city bus in Montgomery and refused to move to the back of the bus. Change began with her resolute stillness.
I was 9 years old living in Montgomery on March 7, 1965 on Bloody Sunday as police attacked 600 people with billy clubs, tear gas, and bull whips as they marched for the right to vote from Selma to the capitol of Montgomery.
I still remember not long after the Civil Rights March some of our church’s deacons smoking under the big oak tree between Sunday School and Worship talking about “that trouble maker King.” It took two more tries before they made it to Montgomery and eventually were granted the right to vote. It still is hard for me to believe that this has happened only in my lifetime.
Finally I was 12 years old when I heard that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed in Memphis. It was not long after that in the summer of 1968 that I drank from the “colored water fountain” when no one was around out of curosity to see how “colored people’s water” tasted. It was warm and the fountatin had not been cleaned. An internal shift happened in me that day. My internal resolution said all God’s children deserve a cold drink of water.
So now I am 53 years old, working with persons living with HIV/AIDS in Birmingham, AL who experience some of this same discrimination on a daily basis. Many of them have darker skin than me, though just as many are white. And I still believe, “All God’s children deserve a cold drink of water.”
And today, I will vote in a Presidential election with a black man on the ballot as the nominee of his party.
No matter what, I am thankful.