Willie Mae Samuel

Willie Mae Samuel, founder and director of the African American Connection for the Performing Arts in Rome

Now that we have been kicking, preaching, bouncing, teaching, throwing, sharing and even debating ideas and suggestions around about how to improve the racial divide and the lack that exists in this country and especially in our region, the question for each of us becomes, “What steps as an individual am I going to take to make a positive difference?” Since all of us have in some way helped to create the problem, at this point it will take all of us to help with the solution.

This is an individual decision. The country and the community cannot, nor should we, sit and expect another Martin Luther King Jr. to show up on the scene and dig deep into the conscience of us as Americans. The urgency of the moment is at hand, the time is now. There were many glimmers of hope these last couple of weeks coming from the citizens of the Rome/Floyd Community as we celebrated the 90th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as his impact on this country and the world.

Yes, it is still meaningful to bring individuals from Atlanta, Chattanooga, Sparta and wherever to share their suggestions with the citizens of this area. I say and know that the answer is right here in the area. We have either turned a deaf ear to the answer or it just sounds better coming from the outside. The answer to our problem is right here in the heart, mind and resources of our very own citizens. However, we must not forget that if any lasting change is going to take place it will be because of intentional decisions made by us individually. At one of the events I encountered a West Rome minister who, by the end of a program, had turned all flushed in the face and seemed extremely gleeful that he had experienced something so moving and uplifting to him. He seemed to be ready to run and tell it like the ladies who were questioned by the angel at the tomb of Jesus. They were asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” When the ladies finally realized what the “open tomb” meant, they went running crying out to the citizens of the city of Galilee, “Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive!”

Even though I am sure this minister preaches that Jesus is alive every Sunday, that day as I spoke briefly with him, he had an “I must go tell what I have experienced today” look. His countenance glowed with Jesus’ joy, hope and faith. In that brief encounter he said, “I never tried to attend, never wanted to attend, but today what I felt, saw, and heard has impacted me tremendously.” There was so much “let me run and tell this” in him that I did not hold a long conversation with him. I wanted him to go and share what God had allowed him to see and hear that day while it was yet still burning in his soul, heart and mind.

After the encounter with that minister I was reminded of the anecdote that Dr. Fred Taylor shared with us at one of the events. He told us a story of two men who were in love with the same lady. Her name was Irene and these men were deeply in love with her. One day, Irene was ready to move on to higher grounds. She said to her first lover, “Look, I do not love you anymore, so I am calling off the engagement.” The lover looked at her with tears in his eyes and tried to plead with her to no avail. The dejected lover slowly walked hopelessly away from her and went to the highest section of Alto Mountain and jumped to his death.

The next day Irene was still feeling that she was surrounded by men for whom she had no real love, so she tells the second lover that she does not love him anymore and has no desire to continue the relationship. The second lover looked her in the face with pain, turned and walked away with grief in his heart. Instead of walking out the door, he went upstairs and pulled out his pen and paper and began to write. He penned “Good Night Irene” and made millions for his song. So what I am saying is we all have a song in our heart that we can share to improve the dark and desolate situation that may be surrounding us. Instead of jumping to our deaths, let us write or tell our song.

For many it is not easy living in Rome and Floyd County, and some may feel unloved and unwanted, but there is a song to be written, there is a story to be told, there is a voice to be heard. We can all come out of our comfort zones and feel what it is like to share the suffering of another. Until we are able to share the hurt of others and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, truth and honesty will never meet in our soul and force us to move toward the best part of our humanity. Dr. Martin Luther King and Jesus were about serving and sharing the burdens of others.

So don’t jump.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome.

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