We arrived too late to visit the museums or see the monuments. But I felt the spirit of Tuskegee. We got sandwiches at Burger King. That Burger King is etched in my mind as I tried to sort through what I was experiencing in Tuskegee, Alabama. That was in the early to middle 70s. I’ve begun a book about Booker T. Washington written by Stephen Mansfield. Three pages in I began to be revisited by that feeling. It is partly an unexpressible appreciation for Booker T. Washington and how Tuskegee was founded and built. The other part is a horror of what he and family and peers suffered.
Washington never knew when he was born or who is father was.
“…he didn’t know because it didn’t matter, and it didn’t matter because he was just property, a small Negro slave valued at a very optimistic $400. Only people permitted an identity need know when they were born. But then what did it matter? He was just another near naked half-white, half-black waif of the kind that scampered about southern farms and plantations by the thousands. When you were born and who your parents are only matter if you are somebody.” (The Darkness Fled, Stephen Mansfield. Highland Books—Nashville, ©1999) Page 44.
I am rewriting Meanderings, a collection of my favorite stories centered on the biography and adventures of Abram whom God renamed Abraham. Three verses into the Abrahamic story (Genesis 12:1-3) and the importance and value of identity is striking. Abram knew his father and ancestors. The fresh revelation was about identity—not to the past, but to the future. And we are members of his family. He is the father of faith to whom God promised as many offspring as grains of sand.
I feel swamped by all this. Our grandchildren have been busy lately winning scholarships and redefining their lives. They have reached passageways to a more explicit identity. I’m wondering what part of their identity coming from us will grow into a heritage. Some of that depends upon their response to God’s call, and diligent faithfulness in fulfillment of that call while living out their uniqueness. That’s true for you and me as well.
You are a somebody.
And before us is the potential of becoming.
“You shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2).
©2017 D. Dean Benton dean @deanbenton.org
Writer, Wonderer, Meanderer