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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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Monday, November 10, 2008

What November 4 Means: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

I have heard many friends comment in person about what Tuesday's election of Barack Obama means to them. It is unlike other presidential elections that I have been part of. It is a new thing. For many African Americans, it is something they believed they would never see, and they could not trust it even when the evidence in October seemed to say it was going to happen.

Some people have taken the time to put their thoughts into words for others to read and contemplate. I have been moved more than once by what I have read. After reading this essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I thought I would make note of a few such statements here.

Gates has taken a look at certain historical statements from Frederick Douglass, George Edwin Taylor, and others, which shed light on the long and hard struggle through which many have trudged on a hopeful path toward overcoming the barriers of racial injustice. His comments about talking to his father were the kind of poignant anecdote I have heard and read over and over this week. He also notes a prescient statement by Jacob Javits in 1958 which fairly accurately predicted the current political achievements of African Americans in Washington, DC.

It reminded me of a statement from Booker T. Washington in which he anticipated a change in the rights of African Americans in another half century. That change began almost on time with the Brown v. Board of Education decision, but it was far from complete, with many more lives to be lost in the struggle. In the same way, Gates reminds us that much that must change in the US will not change quickly or easily. However, that takes nothing away from the unprecedented arrival on the scene of the first African American to be elected president.

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