An Empowering God

"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around"
(A sentence from one of the freedom songs of the civil rights movement)

"Almighty God, Thou has called us to walk for freedom, even as Thou did the children of Israel. We pray, dear God, as we go through a wilderness of State Troopers that Thou will hold our hand. We pray, dear God, as we must go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that Thou will go with us and strengthen us for the task. Keep us strong. Keep us calm. Help us to love our enemy. And above all, keep the fires of freedom burning in our hearts, so that no matter what happens, ain't gonna let nobody turn us around. Because Thou, dear God, has sent us into this place. Thou has sent us to fight, not just for ourselves, but to fight for this nation so that democracy might exist here for the whole world. Keep this vision in our hearts, and may we one day wake up and find the state of Alabama, where all men might vote, where all children might get a decent education, where every man and women might have a job according to his or her abilities, and where every man and women might live together as brothers, and violence and bloodshed and hatred and prejudice shall be no more. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen." Martin Luther King Jr.

Above left, Detroit wall 1941....right, Detroit wall 2011.

King, gave this prayer during a march in 1965, for the Voting Rights that included people of different age groups, races, religions, and socioeconomic classes.

As a teenager growing up in the Detroit area, we were at the height of the civil rights movement. I remember clearly the riots in July of 1967. The imposed curfews, police in riot gear, the national guard, tanks going down 12th street in the inner city. Most of this observed from a distance or on TV but, the noise, the unmistakable fire in the sky, at night, the smell of a city burning down, was a constant reminder that all was not well with our world. When the carnage of the 5-day uprising was finally settling down, curious teen that I was, my friends and I decided to drive into the heart of the city. I would have been locked in my room if my parents had known. It was a devastated war zone. Something here was very, very wrong. I had not known of the 8 Mile Wall. A one foot thick, six feet high wall, that separated the white community from the black community. Built in 1941 to keep the races segregated. Years, decades of indignities. Laws that were made and designed to support the economics of white communities. Oppression, a feeling of hopelessness creates unrest in the spirit. One year later in 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated. The complexities of racism and how it defines our culture are broad and many layered.

With God’s help, I will see the root of that sin in my own heart. Only God can convict and heal my heart. It starts with each one of us. I pray the same conviction and healing for our nation’s leaders and leaders of nations everywhere. I pray for Charlottesville. Racism, hatred, and intolerance is at the root of evil. “Keep Us Strong.” “Keep Us Calm.” Lord, we put our hope in your grace and love for all people, everywhere.

Lois Autterson

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