Thursday, November 03, 2005

If You See A Good Fight Get In It

If You See A Good Fight Get In It

“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing - for the sheer fun and joy of it-to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it.”- I.F. Stone from Curtis White’s The Middle Mind Why Americans Don’t Think For Themselves. p 201

In a television docudrama about the late Rev. Vernon Johns a strong willed eccentric Baptist preacher who preceded Martin Luther King Jr as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama, there is a line in the script where Johns tells one of his parishioners his father told him, “Son, if you see a good fight get in it.” This was done to explain John’s unflinching combative nature. By all accounts’ Johns was a fiery, no nonsense race conscious Black man. He was a contemporary of Rosa Parks in Montgomery and was forced out (some say, other say the Church accepted his fifth resignation and showed him the door) of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church because he was too vocal on the race issue, too uncomfortable about black docility and acquiescence in the face of white terrorism and disdainful of the black folks in his “middle class” congregation unwillingness to embrace his economic do for self philosophy. It is fitting after the recent transition of Rosa Parks who in her own quiet way shared Johns’ passion for justice and activism ( he once refused to give up his seat on a Montgomery bus and when the driver refused to have him arrested John’s demanded his fare back and got it!), that we remember Vernon Johns also. It is more important for us to realize it was not meant for us to be spectators in the game of life. Neither Vernon Johns nor Rosa Parks were voyeurs or relegate themselves to the sidelines of life. Nor did they eschew noble struggle and they certainly didn’t allow anyone else to marginalize them or kick them to the curb. Sure Johns was booted out of Montgomery Alabama because he was a man ahead of his time. So what?! His attitude and activism prepared the way for Rosa Parks, Professor Jo Ann Robinson, Attorney Fred Grey and labor organizer Edgar Daniel “E.D..” Nixon. He lit the spark that while it simmered when he was in Montgomery it set the stage for them to play a decisive role in the 381 day Montgomery bus boycott and challenge to the Alabama segregation (government sanctioned apartheid/ racial cast) laws several years later. Following his stint in Montgomery Johns moved about the country as an itinerant preacher and teacher at several religious schools and Universities. Johns although not well known is called the “Father of the Civil Rights Movement”.
“If you see a good fight get in it” is what Johns said his father told him. Would that we had more men like Johns’ father and Vernon Johns today. No, I am not advocating the senseless fratricide we see in our communities on a daily basis. I am talking about getting involved in the fight to make a difference, the heroic fight to change the world. I’m talking about doing and being a change agent, like Rosa Parks, Vernon Johns, or E.D. Nixon. I’m talking about exerting a positive influence on your immediate environment and making a lasting impact on the world! People say Vernon Johns was an eccentric man, opinionated strong willed and defiant, a one of a kind type person. Johns, was not a lemming a blind follower of the crowd, he was a nonconformist. Johns preached that, “A man should live so his funeral won't be the biggest thing in his life.” Even his lifestyle was unconventional. In his later years even though he was married to one woman for many years who taught at various HBCUs Johns traveled alone around the country in a trailer hooked to his car. So he, Rosa Parks, and many other all had that in common, they were not willing to acquiesce to the status quo. What about you?
Are you willing to stand up or sit down for what you believe in. Are you willing to hold your position even when most of the people around you are too afraid to support you, not as well informed as you or lack your conviction and passion? Do you believe in anything worth fighting for, other than the crass materialism this culture brainwashes us to embrace? Do you believe in peace, justice, true freedom or human dignity? If so, what are you doing to make it real in our lifetime? What good fights do you see that you can get into? Are you willing to be an advocate for peace, racial and economic justice, ethnocentricity or an end to the apathy, hopelessness and nihilism that grips our community? What area of your life can you struggle to improve? Do you want to learn more, grow more or actualize your innate potential? You can do it. But you have to be like Vernon Johns and Rosa Parks, you have to dare to be different. To be a real hero, you have to believe in yourself and the rightness of what you are doing enough to go up against huge odds. You have to believe in the fight so much you are willing to lose once you find the good fight to get into.

-30-

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