I’ve been wondering lately about how our stories fit into how we move through the world. It makes me wonder how the different parts of our story work together to form our passions and work. Many of you know my religious background and church refugee status that led to my call to the pulpit. Added to this call is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my experience of call as a person of faith to work in the breach between Black and White people in this country. There’s a lot in the mix there for me.
When I moved to California from D.C. at 9 years old, my very first friend Kim Gammel was Black and so was my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Gaines. In sixth grade, my teacher Mrs. Lake – an amazing, strong Black woman – assigned the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry about racism in America during the Great Depression. I spent four years at John Muir High School in Pasadena. It was 10% White kids and predominantly Black and Latino kids with an additional minority of first and second generation Asian and Armenian kids.
Running in parallel to those details of upbringing is the picture of the South Carolina governor’s mansion hanging in my grandparents’ home because my Great-Great Grandfather, Hugh Thompson, was the governor of South Carolina. He led a battalion of Citadel cadets to fire some of the first shots of the Civil War against the North’s Star of the West as it entered Charleston Harbor. And, on top of that infamy is my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Thomas B. Clarkson, Plantation man and owner of 300 slaves – men, women, and children.
About a year and a half ago, my mother gave me a letter written by an abolitionist to my triple-great grandfather. The letter congratulated him on his good care of the slaves. I suppose it’s good to know that he treated his slaves with some kindness. The bottom line for me is that he owned people. The odd thing is that I’ve known for many years that he was a plantation owner and it never once occurred to me that he owned slaves. Of course I’m not responsible for his choices but I am affected by them…so are we all. There is always something to be learned. The legacy of slavery for all of us in this country, but especially for our Black brothers and sisters, is part of how I understand the anti-racism work that I do with my multi-race, multi-faith colleagues of Together Colorado.
 Mildred D. Taylor. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976).
 Hugh Smith Thompson (1836-1904). 51st Governor of South Carolina (1882-1886). http://www.carolana.com/SC/Governors/hsthompson.html
 Suellen Clarkson Delahunty (my mother’s cousin). Information About Thomas B. Clarkson, Col. http://www.genealogy.com/ftm/d/e/l/Suellen-Clarkson-Delahunty-NC/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0001.html
 2 Corinthians 5:11-21