Just yesterday, we heard from a Selma, Alabama brother who grew up there as a child long after Dr. King led the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Sadly, Alton grew up in a racist city. In fact, to hear his story, not much had changed in Selma, Alabama since the days of desegregation.
Alton said that all Dr. Martin Luther King wanted to do was God’s will concerning culture, race and diversity. I believe him. That is what this day is about: the reconciliation within our culture and our appreciation of diversity.
Right now I want to focus on Alton, the boy, and Alton, the man. Alton grew up in a very racist part of Selma and not in a good home environment. Alton experienced the negativity of white people who put him down at every turn. But it was worse, he experienced a very negative home environment as well. No doubt, Alton’s family experienced exactly what he experienced in the culture and sadly believed what they were told about themselves and about the culture. That resulted in assassination of character, culture and worth in his home. He heard the condemnation from all sides.
Alton did not have a father who could answer the questions he had about life–questions such as: will I make it? am I good enough? do I have what it takes to be a man? When young men, no matter what race or background they may come from, do not get those questions answered and in the affirmative, their destiny is generally destructive.
Alton did not get those questions answered in his youth and neither did I.
There is a way forward, however, for such a young man. There is hope but it takes a miracle of God to come through in the life of a young man. In Alton’s case, there was a miracle.
Alton, for some reason during his years of education, went to schools and colleges which were primarily white. Alton struggled. His childhood upbringing dogged him throughout his educational career. He felt he was not adequate, he felt he was a failure, and he felt he did no have what it takes. He did not have what it took to minister God’s word among blacks or whites, until one day.
One day, after Alton gave his life’s story to a mixed audience, a white man came up to him and gave Alton a book he had held for 50 years. The man told Alton he did not know why he had held the book so long but he felt strongly he should give the book to Alton that day. The gift of the book was a turning point in Alton’s life. The book was a biography of the life of Martin Luther King and signed by Dr. King himself.
Alton placed deep meaning in that gift that day. He viewed the gift as a message from God that he had a role to play. A role that involved something greater maybe than the role that Dr. King played in bringing about desegregation in America. God initiated Alton Hardy that day.
What is initiation? That is when the boy or the young man gets the question answered. The question is: ‘do I have what it takes to be a man?’ ‘Do I have what it takes to succeed in life?’ Receiving that gift from a white man and having a book personally signed by Dr. King was Alton’s confirmation that he did have what it takes and that he was on the right path to reconciliation and all that God had for him to do.
Alton you are not alone. This white boy stands with you. My father and my community did not initiate me either, but God has and I am grateful.
Have you been initiated by your father? Have you been initiated by God? God is in that business you know. No, you may not know. He is in that business. God’s initiation is like no other on this earth.