Rev. Ralph Graves: Hope That We Can Believe In — An African American Perspective


Rev. Ralph Graves Jr.

By Pastor Ralph Graves | Cornerstone Community Church

As I was preparing myself to write this to you this morning, I pondered on numerous occasions as to what I would write.

Although, I’d done this before … I still find these types of columns a bit challenging. Why challenging … well for starters how can I, someone who was not born during the days of segregation or during the Jim Crow Era even begin to pontificate the struggles that so many endured during their lifetime.

During my preparations, I began to thank God that I was born in April 1968. I thank God today that my eyes never had the opportunity to see…

*separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks
*colored balconies in movie theaters
*laws which required black folk to sit on the back of buses

Maybe I am just too young to understand the pain that some of you and many of our ancestors felt when they could not eat at certain lunch counters, register to vote, or buy property wherever they chose.

I think I need to set the record straight … I will not write this today … with the intent of giving you a litany of events or quotes about America’s dark past. I will allow the bloodstains of history reveal America’s guilt and shame.

However, I do write to tell you that there is hope — that we can believe in.

As I pondered and reflected on my own life, I began to realize … that this task is not difficult because even though I was not around during those aforementioned times, I realized that I still have a perspective.

Although, this body never felt the pressured water from a fire hoses, nor felt the bite of a German Shepard’s teeth. There still is hope that I can believe in. Truth of the matter … I thought as a young man, growing up in Deptford that freedom was just that, “free.”

Then I discovered that nothing in life is free. The Salvation that I so freely enjoy cost my Savior Jesus His life on Calvary. The right to vote cost thousands of their blood, sweat and tears. Standing up for justice cost Dr. Martin Luther King his life on a balcony in Memphis.

So as I reflected, I have no choice but to thank God for people who paved the way like Dr. King who was willing to risk his life to combat social injustice and to enhance the welfare of others.

Although I am able to enjoy and personally witness pieces of Dr. King’s dream become a reality in my life, I also realize that the 21st century continues to be a challenging time.

There is an old Negro spiritual, which says, “We shall overcome someday.” Well I am waiting on that someday, when I can send my grandchild to school and not have to worry about whether another child is being taught to be a racist at home.

I am waiting for that someday, that I do not have to worry about whether or not my granddaughter, whom we are preparing for college, will not be shot down by a jealous boyfriend, or shot down because she is a Christian or because she is not of the right ethnicity by some deranged or disgruntled student.

Yes, the hymnologist declares that we shall overcome someday, but from the looks of things, so far it appears that we have overcome some hurdles only to be shackles by other obstacles:

— Like subprime mortgages

— Record number of foreclosed homes

— Inequality of our black men in the penal system

— Our neighborhoods filled with drugs

— Parks with no beaches

— Basketball ball courts with no rims

— And the list goes on and on …

You see … These are but a few examples, which indicate that our work is not yet done; the struggle has not ended!

— Yes, water hose and dogs may be a thing of the pass, but the threats and intimidation of nooses still exists today

Jim Crow Laws, no … separate and unequal, yes.

Segregation, no … but the have and the have not(s), yes.

Governor Wallace, no … but racial profiling and crooked state/district attorneys, yes.

But there is hope that we can believe in.

I tend to agree with one of the greatest Africans who ever lived, the Apostle Paul. His perspective about hope, which he refers to as the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.

You see, I like the Apostle Paul’s perspective because he reminds us in Titus 2:13-14 that this is a hope that we can look for. Listen to what Paul said:

“[v.13] Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ;

“[v.14] Who gave himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Well, speaking of good works …

I challenge you to continue to hope, continue to stand-up for change, and continue to do what is right. Dr. King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Dr. King went on to say, “The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.”

Which simply means, don’t just dare to be different , but live to MAKE A DIFFERENCE in someone else’s life.

So, the question that I have for each of you is, what are YOU going to do to make a difference in our community?

But before you answer that, I would like to share with you something that I am sure you have heard or read before. Nevertheless, I think it is fitting for this column.

It is entitled “The Cold Within.”

Six humans trapped by happenstance In black and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood, Or so the story is told.
Their dying fire in need of logs The first woman held hers back.
For one of the faces around the fire She noticed was black.
The next man looking cross the way Saw no one from his church.
And could not bring himself to give The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should my log be put to use To warm the filthy rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood Was a chance to spite the white.
And the last man of this forlorn group Did nothing except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave Was how he played the game.
The logs held tight in death’s stilled hands Was proof of human sin,

You see … they did not die from the cold without, This group died from the cold within.

Our lives and the lives of our children do not have to be like these six individuals. Your actions, as well as your inactions, will determine the course of their future.

I remind you that there is hope that we can believe in.

Decide to help somebody rise from despair on the wings of hope by putting a little love in your heart.

There is a hope that we can believe in. This hope happens when we decide to make a difference in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and in our state, when we put down hatred and pick up love.

So let us continue to remember the widowed and orphaned, the homeless and the hungry.

Because … this is the hope that we can believe in …

Pastor Ralph Graves Jr., Cornerstone Community Church Vineland

Cornerstone Community Church in Millville: Visit today, Services Sunday at 10:30 a.m. EST. Click HERE for more information

Become “Unstoppable.” Check out the latest books and podcasts from Rev. Ralph Graves. Click HERE for more information.

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