On Sunday, I appeared on a local radio talk show. It was the last show of the year and the top news stories of 2009 were the topics. I was thrilled to be asked. My preparations for the show included analyzing the data from my blog posts hits and the most commented stories on page 4a in the Tennessee Tribune. I went over the data endlessly to make sure I came prepared and informed for the show. My grandfather’s love of historical events and my mother’s fanatical love of reading are deeply planted in my DNA.
My grandfather showed by his example that respect of those who served in the military and the unsung heroes of the civil rights era was honorable. Whenever we met someone from the fifties, sixties, and early seventies who marched alongside Daddy in the struggle for equality, he would introduce them and share a wonderful story about the person with us listening. “You are not going to read this in any history books”, he would start each introduction. I could see the change in posture of the person as Daddy talked about a deed not recognized civically, a gesture gone unnoticed, marches on the battlefield, protests, boycotts – name it and he built the person up. We always walked away feeling as if we met a hero, and the individual walked away feeling proud that his/her sacrifice was not trivialized by today’s standard of leadership. Mr. Joe (Daddy) did not forget the contributions of everyone and was teaching his grandchildren history all in one breath.
With my grandfather in my thoughts, I arrived at the station early with my laptop, copies of The Tennessee Tribune, stories that I have written for the paper that made print/web media outlets in New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and many other markets with me, as well as my Twitter account up and ready to discuss the news with the listening audience. I sent out numerous tweets to my followers on Twitter to make sure they tuned in online. I felt prepared and ready to share the good, the bad and the ugly top stories of 2009.
Mr. Kwame Lillard was a guest also. I have met him before on several occasions, and I knew he was part of ushering in change in Nashville during the turbulent civil right years. I invited the Oasis Center youth to meet him and others when both of us were honored at JUMP’s 10th Annual Christmas Extravaganza. Mr. Lillard arrived a few minutes before the show was about to go on air and we made small talk. He came with notes scribbled on a piece of paper. I commented that old school meets new school because I was wired and was going to tweet and blog while we were on the air. We started off with friendly banter, and by fifteen after we were discussing national topics regarding the Obama administration’s first year. I noted that his message of change and hope on the campaign trail has not quite resonated yet and that “inherited problems” can no longer be used in 2010. Our host mentioned the ”Skip” Gates debacle that we all agreed was not an issue the President should have commented on without all the facts.
As we shifted from national to local news, one of the top news stories that shook the community was Ms. Joyce Searcy’s, former CEO of Bethlehem Centers of Nashville, new role as Director of Community Relations at Belmont University. Her work at the 1417 Charlotte makes her a case study for servant leadership and community involvement for any college or university.
Mr. Lillard ranted that she was now a pawn working for the enemy and started
booing as I was speaking. This contrasted sharply with his earlier statements on air about his celebrating the first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja, which mean to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race the night before. I couldn’t respond faster enough to disagree with his enemy comments. He rambled on about the “school buying up parks”. I was dumbfounded. My usually sharp wit was numbed for a second and I had to speak through my astonishment. I quickly remembered he was seventy years old. Back home, telling him what I thought at the moment would have been equivalent to sassing and being disrespectful. Whatever message I had to say to the listeners would have been distracted by my “talking back” even at my age on the air. Others on the show disagreed with Mr. Lillard as well, but his initial comment sent many to my gmail and Twitter accounts in protest. Folks were not happy with his words or actions either. We managed to fumble through an awkward moment live, and the show went on with more educated and meaningful commentary.
We ended on a note to be better in 2010. There were hugs and laughter after the spirited show that was engaging, but my dismay at Mr. Lillard’s comment lasted well beyond the morning’s program. My new school meeting with old school was very disappointing.
Why is it so hard to rejoice in another’s goodness and accolades? The years sitting at my grandfather’s feet has taught me to appreciate and value the struggles that took place before me. As I went from listening to my grandfather to earning the right to converse with him, I told him the battlefield is still there but I fight differently. My fight has always been in the boardroom and the marketplace. That does not negate my grandfather’s advocacy by any means. In his later years, I would often tell Daddy, “Try running a company, keeping your kids out of trouble, being active in civic and networking groups and navigating culture issues at every turn. I am in the fight every day.”
Instead of further dissecting Mr. Lillard’s actions, let me share what I wrote earlier this year about Ms. Searcy.
The evening was bittersweet as many shared stories about Ms. Searcy powerfully impacting their lives. Ms. Searcy, a community Shero and servant leader, retired after 22 years of service and dedication. Ms. Searcy's joyful spirit and sacrificial giving of her time and expertise to anyone who needed a hand up or a shoulder to lean on was acknowledged by all in attendance. Ms. Searcy has received numerous awards and accolades for her leadership and devotion to the community of Nashville and women and young girls nationally and internationally. Nashville's 2008 Athena Award recipient will be greatly missed at Bethlehem, but she promised to continue to lead with passion as she takes on her new role as Director of Community Relations at Belmont University.
Sometimes, we have to be reminded that everyone has a role in moving a community and a nation forward. Ms. Searcy, a civil rights leader in her own right, has worked tirelessly to help thousands who have passed through the doors of BCN and touched the lives of many more nationally and internationally. She does not have to remind others of the work she has done in the community because the fruit of her labor is evident. As we ring in 2010, let’s celebrate and rejoice when others are lifted up as we pass lessons of hope, change and empowerment from one generation to another. Young people truly watch and listen to our words and deeds. We can go from hero to zero in an hour.
I will not attempt to hide my respect for Ms. Searcy and many in the community feel the same way. Thank you, Ms. Searcy for your years of community service. I know you will continue to impact others for generations to come.