by The Reverend Dr. Britt Minshall
THANKSGIVING DAY 1961, Florence, South Carolina: At nineteen-years of age, my fiancé Karen and I, had driven overnight to Florence from Wilmington, DE, to get married. It’s hard to believe the foolishness of youth. After the short civil ceremony, we were walking to the courthouse door when I spotted a water fountain and indicated I was going to get a drink.
I started for the water bubbler, clearly marked “COLORED,” when Judge P.W. Grimsley said “No brother Britt, you can’t drink there, you use the “WHITES ONLY” fountain on the other wall!”
The judge had no way of knowing he was addressing a teenage Civil Rights Fire Brand. “No Judge, with all due respect,’ I replied, ‘the man who drinks from this fountain is MY BROTHER!”
Over the next 54 years, I taught, marched, preached, begged, wrote CONTINUOUSLY to expose and end America’s incessant race problem. Those of us who have battled for equality and mutual respect have, usually, been ignored by cowardly churches, disowned by our families, accused by politics generated states, fear ridden media and a race based society.
“There’s no racism in America,” we were reminded and were labeled “trouble makers.”
OCTOBER 2010, Washington, DC: I’m an old man now. My wife is long gone, my children are strewn across the country and have their own children. Some are rearing my Great Grand Children. In 2009, I was in trouble again for writing a newsletter: “KILLER COPS IN THE AMERICAN POLICE STATE.” This was FIVE YEARS before the evidence of this, almost universal, practice of police acting as overseers and thugs over black people was widely known.
With everyone angry at me for the article, my church hiding from me and the power structure of Baltimore out to get me, this 2010 October evening, I sat, in a massive depression. I was on the North Plaza of our National Capitol Building waiting to go into the Fox – CNN Broadcast Center, across the street, to be the guest on two evening shows.
Thoughts of failure plagued my mind: “God was it worth all the fighting, the years of protests and loss of friends?”
Just then, several young couples strolled past as I sat on the bench. In polite fashion, they gave a greeting in passing and I returned the same. All the sudden, I realized these twenty-somethings were mostly INTER-RACIAL couples (Black with White, Asian with both White and Black!!!)
Then as they passed toward the big fountain, I spotted the scores of small children playing in the fountain. They ran and laughted, splashed and giggled and enjoyed each other’s company.
And: They were White AND Black AND Yellow AND Brown!
I SAY: “They were White AND Black AND Yellow AND Brown!”
Instantly, I recalled Dr. King’s words: “I had a dream! That little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I saw little Black children and little white children playing and living together.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
As I sat spellbound, I cried tears of eternal joy, realizing it WAS all worth it. I am not sure Heaven is as we expect it to be, but I can say, at that moment: “I saw the face of God smiling upon a people (Black and White) my brother Martin died for.
I also realized the greatest of all people, in every country and in every age, are the ones that end up being killed for standing for righteousness: Jesus, Gandhi, Dr. King and Bishop Romero. At once my small sacrifice became worth it and I celebrated my small but Godly service – For God’s Sake!