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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pauli Murray's autobiography--I finally finished it yesterday. It was a very interesting, impressive, and insightful account of both a gifted actor in history and a historical period.

I speak for my race and my people--
The human race and just people.

These words appeared in the front pages of her book of poems, Dark Testament. Carolyn Ware offers them in tribute to her in the Epilogue of the book.

I was fascinated by her early life in part because of its constant references to Durham, NC, where I live. The later years of her life become amazing because of the range of activity, leadership, and accomplishments.

She became an authority on laws concerning race across all the states of the U.S. She taught in Ghana at the opening of their first law school and influenced major figures in the interpretation of constitutional law and civil rights. She wrote decisive papers on the application of equal employment laws to women, and influenced the key legislation on this matter in the Civil Rights Act. She helped to initiate the meetings which led to creating the National Organization for Women, and she was a founding member. She helped Benedict College in South Carolina create programs to move their students from marginal to capable in college level work. She was a pioneer in the fields of African American Studies and Legal Studies while teaching at Brandeis University. She helped to press the World Council of Churches and the Episcopal Church toward acceptance of women in ministry. She was one of the many women ordained to Episcopal ministry during the first weeks of 1977 when the church officially allowed ordination.

Ironically, it seems to me that she barely managed financially for most of her life, often searching for employment to support her main work as a writer, activist, and scholar. Certainly some of her opportunities in the last couple of decades of her life were more financially adequate, but even then her jobs were not long term and left her future support uncertain.

With reference to my life, my imagination has been captured by what seems to me to be a necessity of finding a job I can count on to make my way. Perhaps it was not at all by choice for Pauli Murray that she did not live this way. But part of her situation also was her commitment to deal with the work at hand. Her unwillingness to put off the tasks that pressed themselves on her is a compelling witness. I find myself looking at that kind of life and saying with those Greek seekers of Jesus, "Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief."

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