Black History Month Reflections from Fr. Brown: The Warmth of Other Suns
February 12, 2019
The Warmth of Other Suns – The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a stunning history of the migration of southern blacks to northern and western cities.
I followed the stories of three very different people — Ida May Gladney, from sharecropping Mississippi to Chicago; George Starling, who left Florida in 1945 heading to Harlem; and Robert Foster, who would leave Louisiana in 1953 travelling to California achieving the American dream as a successful doctor in Los Angeles.
I have always loved the paintings of Jacob Lawrence, the artist who chronicled on canvas the Great Migration.
For Black History Month I offer this meditation:
There is no mistaking
What is going on;
It is a regular exodus.
It is without head, tail, or leadership.
Its greatest factor is momentum,
And this is increasing,
Despite amazing efforts on the part
Of white Southerners to stop it.
People are leaving their homes
And everything about them,
Under cover of night,
As though they were going
On a day’s journey —
The Cleveland Advocate April 28, 1917
I was leaving the South
To fling myself into the unknown….
I was taking a part of the South
To transplant in alien soil,
To see if it could grow differently,
If it could drink of new and cool rains,
Bend in strange winds,
Respond to the warmth of other suns
And, perhaps, to bloom
— Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices
We have been told
That we can sit where we please,
But we are still scared.
We cannot shake off three hundred years of fear
In three hours
— Richard Wright
Timidly, we get off the train.
We hug our suitcases, fearful of pickpockets….
We are very reserved,
For we have been warned not to act green….
We board our first Yankee street car
To go to a cousin’s home…
— Richard Wright
“It occurred to me that no matter where I lived, geography could not save me”
— Jacqueline Joan Johnson who migrated from Charleston, South Carolina to New York.
Read other Black History Month Reflections by Father Brown