I am very grateful to Amy for her kind invitation to blog with her here on Cotton Patch Politics. I am writing this post as an introduction, and hope it finds you well.
As often happens here in maddy-ville, life has delayed my good intentions.
My phone died, the 'puter freaked out and hid most of my pics from the GABEO (Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials) Conference, at which we welcomed the Rev. Joseph Lowery home from D.C., where he received the Medal of Freedom.
Mostly, though, I became overwhelmed. The photo id bill passed (again!) in GA., the Hope Scholarship was raped, there was a tsunami with nuclear consequences in Japan, and all the news I felt compelled to comment on was, luckily, dealt with quite well by other folks. So I gave myself permission to get my own emotional house in order before posting.
Then, the man hunt for a murderer here in Athens, GA. centered in my neighborhood.
Now it seems more important than ever that I begin to tell my stories. We never know when we will leave our bodies, and I am determined to share my experience of this world before mine kicks me out.
Koinonia was a vital part of my childhood. When Amy said she was basing her new blog on the words of Clarence Jordan, my heart lept, as did my memory, to 1967. We were on our way south to Athens, GA., from Philly.
My Mom was a brilliant lady, and knew that we'd be in for it, down here. As we crossed the Mason-Dixon line, we stopped at a Big Boy restaurant. I'd already noticed the 'colored only' water fountains, and knew from friends and family in the Civil Rights Movement in NYC and Philly that there were people who still profited by the misery of others, and claimed God had told them they were entitiled to do so, like Nazis.
Mom, trying to lighten the mood of our move, looked for something to be happy about on the menu, which was cleverly illustrated for those who couldn't read, but could pay. As she ordered her eggs, her eyes brightened at the option of grits. She asked the waitress what those were, and said she'd like ONE, please. It was a rainy morning, so the place was packed, and her Swarthmore accent must have alerted the locals that there were dayum yankees in the house. Everybody laughed. My Mom, bewildered, asked the waitress for clarification, and was taught enough about grits to order them with cheese. They were awful, and the waitress noticed my Mom was struggling, so prompted her to add black pepper and salt, 'just like mashed potatoes, only corn, honey'.
I felt we were moving into enemy territory. I thought of our family as an underground cell. I was astonished that I could like our waitress, or share a joke with a room full of people whose language and culture I could not comprehend, and feared.
It didn't take us long to discover there were limited options for the spiritually inquisitive in Athens, GA. The Unitarians gave a group of faculty types, led by Frank Hutchinson, a place to sit on the floor in a circle and form our own United Presbyterian Church. We were a pretty radical group, firm in our understanding that beliefs were bullshit, unless we lived them in our day to day lives.
My Mom ruled on Sundays, a deal she cut with my overbearing and angry father, in a bid for one day of peace per week in our violent, otherwise horrible home. She led us on many an adventure, hoping, I think, that we'd find something to love about our lives together.
One of my first favorite places was Koinonia. The people were smart, and gutsy. They weren't content to read the 'word' there, and didn't tolerate fools or complacency. I loved it.
We worked in the garden while the adults did construction work, or played with the mule and donkey (using one to climb onto the other) while the women heated up the food we'd all brought to share. A little girl could get lost in the pecan trees there, and I grew to love picking up pecans. I remember a very kind man who taught me how to open them, squeezing one against the other, and bade me to eat them, that there were plenty.
There were times when things were so hot in Americus that we (kids) couldn't go. My parents (and sometimes only the man of the house) would ride down with other grown-ups, leaving us behind.
There were folks there who picketed the local Southern Baptist Church for refusing to allow black folks in the door, every Sunday morning. It was dangerous work.
Anyone who had an out of county tag was followed on long country roads, often for miles, before being stopped, raged at and threatened by the police.
I remember one particularly fat fellow, who whined "why y'all wanna come heah causin' us trouble, we ain't done nothin' to you" and eventually said "we don't come up yonder and tell y'all how to live, you all need to stay the hayell to home!". I piped up from the back seat that where we came from we didn't tell children to go to hell, that it was a bad word, and a worse idea. He turned bright red, and waved us on our way, speechless and a bit bewildered. I remember looking back at him and his ugly, thugly friends through the back window. My Mother shouted at me to "GET DOWN, MADELYN!", afraid they would open fire on us. I did as she asked.
I'm looking at an envelope from Koinonia Partners now, post-dated June 13, 1970. On the cover of one booklet is a picture of a black man kneeling with a white one, in a field. They are clearly equals, working together. The cover reads "We must have a new spirit- a spirit of partnership with one another." It is a keen reminder of our purpose here on earth, which is as it is in heaven. I hope you find comfort in that certain knowledge, as I have, tonight.
Peace be with you, and thank you for reading.