It is Black History Month, a time to focus on the lives and experiences of Black folks in America, a month to acknowledge and appreciate the centuries of services and advancements Black people gave/give to the world.
Hattie Mae and Willie were African Americans seniors who had lived in the same little town all their lives. They married as teenagers, and even though their years together had had ups and downs, they kept their vow to stay together “until death do us part.” Hattie Mae and Willie were known for their kindness and compassion. Whenever one of them was brought up in conversation, someone would say, “Bless (his/her) heart.” If someone praised Hattie or Willie, their response was, “It’s just my faith. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Smiles.
Hattie Mae and Willie shared the responsibility of bringing up their children, their grandchildren and any other children that came in contact with them. They taught children to wash their hands. “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” Hattie Mae or Willie would say. They taught children to bless their food before eating and to thank their “Maker” for another day before going to sleep. They encouraged children to give to the poor whether in church or on the street. “The LORD blesses everyone who freely gives food to the poor,” Hattie Mae or Willie would say, quoting the Contemporary English version of the Bible.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “what are you doing for others?”(Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
Hattie Mae and Willie had high-school degrees. Willie worked as a janitor, and because his salary was not great, he worked days and some nights. But…he would not work on Sundays unless it was an emergency. “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy,” Willie chanted.
Hattie Mae worked part time, “cleaning and cooking for white folks” she would say. This was not said in anger. She had a beautiful voice and often sang solos at church. Willie’s voice was not so good, but he still sang in the church choir. His biggest thrill was singing with children during their favorite song, “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.”
“Didn’t my lord deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel. Didn’t my lord deliver Daniel, then why not every man.
“He delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, Jonah from the belly of the whale.
“And the Hebrew children from the fiery furnace, Then why not every man…”
Hattie Mae and Willie were well aware of the negative attitudes that existed about Black people, so they made a point of talking about people and phrases that helped black children and adults know that “Black is beautiful”, that the Lord created Black people because He wanted them; He did not make a mistake. They would often close by repeating Rev. Jesse Jackson’s version of the poem “I Am Somebody” written by Reverend William Holmes Borders, Sr, who served as pastor of Wheat Street Baptist church in Atlanta where he campaigned for civil rights. After completing his bachelor of divinity degree, he accepted the pastorate of the Second Baptist Church in Evanston where he served for five years.
“I am Somebody! I am Somebody! I may be poor, But I am Somebody.
I may be young, But I am Somebody. I may be on welfare, But I am Somebody.
I may be small, But I am Somebody. I may have made mistakes, But I am Somebody.
My clothes are different, My face is different, My hair is different, But I am Somebody.
I am Black, Brown, or White. I speak a different language, But I must be respected, Protected, Never rejected. I am God’s child!”