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Yea, though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.
--Psalm 23: 4
As a child, I learned from the Bible to trust in God and not be afraid. I have always felt comforted by reading the Psalms, especially Psalms 23 and 27.
My grandfather also influenced me to not be afraid. A very proud man, he was never fearful--especially when it came to defending his home and family. Back in those days, fear was something very real for black people. There was so much hatred toward blacks--especially from white supremacy groups, like the Ku Klux Klan.
I remember one day when the KKK came near our house after many incidents of hate crimes against nearby blacks. My grandfather never seemed afraid. At night he would sit with his shotgun and say that he did not know how long he would last, but if they came breaking in our house, he was going to get the first one who came through the door. He never looked for trouble, but he believed in defending his home.
I saw and heard so much as a child growing up with hate and injustice against black people. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength. Long ago I set my mind to be a free person and not to give in to fear. I always felt that it was my right to defend myself if I could.
I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear. When I sat down on the bus the day I was arrested, I was thinking of going home. I had made up my mind quickly about what it was that I had to do, what I felt was right to do. I did not think of being physically tired or fearful. After so many years of oppression and being a victim of the mistreatment that my people had suffered, not giving up my seat--and whatever I had to face after not giving it up--was not important. I did not feel any fear at sitting in the seat I was sitting in. All I felt was tired. Tired of being pushed around. Tired of seeing the bad treatment and disrespect of children, women, and men just because of the color of their skin. Tired of the Jim Crow laws. Tired of being oppressed. I was just plain tired.
I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear. It was time for someone to stand up--or in my case, sit down. I refused to move.
We blacks are not as fearful or divided as people may think. I cannot let myself be so afraid that I am unable to move around freely and express myself. If I do, then I am undoing the gains we have made in the civil rights movement. Love, not fear, must be our guide.
In these days, many people are feeling a different type of fear that is hard to break free of. There are so many new things to be afraid of that were not as common in the earlier days. We should not let fear overcome us. We must remain strong. Violence and crime seem so much more prevalent. It is easy to say that we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Many of our children are going astray. But I still remain hopeful.