Stone of Hope

I sat on my bedroom floor and cried, wishing that the world would just pause so that I could catch my breath before having to face it again. This was after my friend and neighbor assured me there is much more good in the world than not, and after I read Psalm 30, desperately seeking confirmation of her words: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning…” I wasn’t sure how any joy would follow the nights Puerto Rico, Barbuda, the British and United States Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Mexico and now Las Vegas have endured. I could not see how weeping would give way to joy after the destruction that has been caused recently not only by “acts of God” but acts of men.
The heinous attack on our fellow human beings in Las Vegas was the most unimaginable culmination to a week during which I have seen the ugliest displayed in and against humankind. It was the final straw that broke me down after social media showed me over these past few days that the production titled “Let’s Agree to Disagree” is now played out with scenes of degradation, insult, and personal attacks on one’s character. It showed me that the line “we don’t have to like each other but we should at least respect each other” has been erased from the scripts some hold in their hands and replaced with words I dare not repeat here. I could not see past the pain of those being attacked long enough to catch any glimpses of joy. But it was still morning.
My phone’s beep alerted me that I had a new message: there’d be a tour of Clayborn Temple in a few hours and, if available, I was welcome to join. A short while later I stood in front of this historic structure where Memphis’ sanitation workers gathered in 1968 before the start of their solidarity march. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the church numerous times and it was a place known for its compassion towards and safe-keeping of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement. It was here where the “I Am A Man” signs were distributed, images of which are now synonymous with the movement. Yet despite its rich history and significance to Memphis and the world, the church fell into disrepair until a group of Memphians determined they could not and would not allow this sacred place to fall.
I stood on the sidewalk with native Memphian Deondra Henderson, who left New York to return home and help rebuild that which was once neglected but in which lies so much potential. I stood with developer Rob Thompson whose enthusiasm and eagerness to see Clayborn Temple rise from the ashes is almost as passionate as his desire that whatever is done be an honorable reflection of the people who gathered here, and who perhaps recited Psalm 30 more times than I ever will in my lifetime. Allison Carson, cityCURRENT’s Communications Director and Johnny Pitts, founder of cityCURRENT, stood on that sidewalk too, brainstorming on how Clayborn Temple’s restoration could be realized because the impact of its rebirth will be immeasurable. “We have to make sure this happens” Pitts said in a soft-spoken, authoritative voice; a reminder, for me, that the sanctity of this place cannot be suppressed.
I was also reminded, shortly after the tour ended, of my three year anniversary as contributing writer to cityCURRENT. In stark contrast to my other experience with it this past week, social media showed me (via an “On This Day” post) that the past three years have been filled with stories showcasing the most beautiful in mankind, culminating (for now) with a conversation in front of Clayborn Temple between a diverse group of people who have chosen to stick to a script made famous by our beloved Dr. King, an excerpt of which is:
“This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
Thank you, cityCURRENT Team, for all of the joy you’ve sent my way.