Rev. Charles A. Tillman, Sr.
VA District Black Ministries Coordinator
February 18, 2016
Reflections on Martin Luther King Jr., Holiday:
As we prepare to celebrate another Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday, I thought it might be good to reflect on what the day means to me.
I was born to a working class family in upstate New York during the turbulent 60’s. My parents had migrated from the State of Mississippi in search of the American Dream. My mother, who went to be with the Lord in 2012, told me that she wanted her children to have a chance in life. My parents chose a city where they were able to get good blue collar jobs, they could buy a home and their children could get a good education. We were able to achieve this in Syracuse, New York.
Due to my parents’ willingness to go on an “Abram like” sojourn, my siblings and I reaped the benefits of their wise choice. Did my parents encounter racism? Yes! Have my siblings’ and I encountered racism? Yes! But we’ve experienced countless opportunities and experiences that would never have come our way had our folks stayed in the oppressive State of Mississippi. My parents ultimately divorced and a step-father came in the picture. There were nine of us in this blended family. Out of the seven children my mother bore, three completed technical certificates or Associate degrees, three have earned Master’s degrees, while all have earned some post-secondary education. All have gone on to leave their mark on the society, purchase homes, hold respectable jobs, operate businesses and make a difference in the world.
Dr. King made it possible for families like mine to get, in the words of President Obama, “A fair shot in life.” He paid the ultimate sacrifice with his life to promote equality for all: Red, Yellow, Black and White! I encourage you not to approach this as just another holiday to relax around the home. Herein are the words I penned in an article posted on our Global Mission Center’s website; http://www.usacanadaregion.org/blackministries:
“Take time to meet, establish friendships and meaningful dialogue with persons who are different than you. Be willing to challenge racial stereotypes and fear by engaging in conversation with persons different than you. Anglos should attend church or other events hosted and led by persons of color. Blacks should be open and approachable to discuss current racial issues and challenges without hesitation or reservation.
We, as leaders and members of the Church of the living God, must lead the way in building a society that encourages, embraces and values racial and cultural diversity. As Christians, Christ Himself admonishes us, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). ML King Holiday is a great time to attend events that promote racial harmony and understanding.”
Upon the death of my maternal grandfather, I relocated to Meridian, Mississippi. The very place my parents bolted around the time of the horrific execution of Emmet Till. However my experiences there would drastically change my life in a positive way. During my first weekend in MS, I met a group of young people who attended the Fitkins’ Memorial Church of the Nazarene. These young people loved the Lord and were on fire! They had something that I lacked and sorely wanted. I later joined that church and thus began my journey with the Church of the Nazarene. It’s been thirty-five years, Bible College, a wife and three kids and three pastorates later, and I’m still here.
I thank God for the Church of the Nazarene. And I thank God for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!
He Also offered several resources recommendations including:
Culture Trumps Religion, Every Time: The Ethno-Cultural Challenge for the Church by Dr. Oliver Raphael Phillips
Called to the Fire: A Witness for God in Mississippi; The Story of Dr. Charles Johnson by Chet Bush
King Came Preaching: The Pulpit Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Mervyn A. Warren