This Web Site is not just a means of important evangelistic outreach to and biblical instruction for black Americans, but also a history making repository of some of this Christian black man’s many long years of work through media which God called me to. Realizing that truth, I rejoice during this Black History Month 2021 to add the original 1995 Black History Month Opinion Page submission the Lord led me to write for national newspaper distribution by Religion News Service to the “Articles” section of the Web Site.
The Op-Ed was written with the heartbeat of the From Slavery To Victory: One Man’s Journey Radio Special1 and The From Slavery To Victory Education Project which is to get black Americans to look deeper beyond the facts of our American experience to see a gracious and merciful God at work. I quoted from this piece in a two-part 2019 Juneteenth Strong Man Of God Blog entitled, “Message From A Redeemed Black Man” in a more recent effort to present the development of the radio special and education project. Please note the reference to radio stations was for that time. Also, back then I quoted from the NIV Bible for a more contemporary translation. I would not do so today and recommend the New King James Version (NKJV).
Rev. Robert Kelley, February 1, 2021
As envisioned by Carter G. Woodson, the observance of Black History Month (which originally began as a week, but was expanded in recent years to the entire month of February) is intended to focus the attention of the whole nation--but especially African Americans--on the significant contributions our people have made to America. The wide ranging array of events which make up the month are designed to be informative, educational and festive.
While I wholeheartedly support these aims, I do believe it is now critical that more African Americans engage themselves full time in conducting one of the lesser practiced activities of the observance. That activity is the reflective, studied seeking for meaning behind all of the facts of our history. For though knowledge as embodied in all of the facts of our history is important, meaning and understanding are what will take us to any next positive step in our developmental progress as a people.
In the Bible’s book of Proverbs, King Solomon writes, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (4:7). He also states, “Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance” (Ecclesiastes 8:1c). Everyday living bears out the truth of Solomon’s counsel and observation. A man can know his car will not start. However, until he accurately understands the cause, he is helpless to fix the problem. With understanding, the frustration that snarled his face is dissipated, replaced by a smile of satisfaction.
The search for meaning in the overwhelmingly negative mosaic of images which make up Black History--stories of individual achievement, heroism and courage notwithstanding--has been my personal quest for over twenty years. Spurred by youthful impatience and disillusionment with the status quo, I set out as a wide-eyed college student to know and understand my history. Through a wealth of Black Studies courses and personal research, I gained much knowledge, empathy and appreciative pride, but no acceptable understanding. My frustration, festering anger and bitterness grew toward the suffocating prospect of a history and a present of suffering that seemed to have no just explanations or redeeming value.
The thought of being an eternal victim was not at all appealing to me--though I knew many of my fellow African Americans from every persuasion had embraced victimhood as the best possible interpretation for our suffering and the only viable posture to take in pricking white America’s conscience. Giving up and finding escape from my serious inquiry in the comfort of apathy, all manner of self-destructive living, selfish, unrestrained pursuing of material wealth or angry, militant fighting of “the system” were no longer options since I had previously done these (as many of my people do) with no lasting satisfaction and had become by Black History Month 1979, a deeply committed follower of Jesus Christ. Still, even as a regular church attending Christian and eventually a seminary graduate, I heard or learned no explanations about my history that brought my soul to peace.
A breakthrough did begin to happen for me in the early months of 1986. I was pre- paring what was then to be a series of history segments entitled, “From Slavery To Victory: One Man’s Journey” for a radio program our Ministry was producing. The segments were intended to alternately present the facts and give a spiritual interpretation of Black History. Research for the facts in well known source materials was easy enough. However, I realized I still did not have any kind of consistent understanding of the facts to provide a spiritual interpretation. With great disappointment I cancelled the series (the entire radio program followed close behind) and retreated to determined prayer and Bible study.
It quickly became clear to me that I had been looking in the wrong places for the understanding I needed. Indeed, Bible verses trumpeting the wisdom giving, instructional and revelatory abilities of God began to leap off the pages at me! Verses such as, “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth” (Psalm 33:13-14) and “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6) along with “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5) took on new meaning and forced me to stretch my faith to do what I had not done up to then in my search for understanding of my history: ask God!
The explanations I had searched so long and hard for came to me little by little over the next several years. So did deliverance from the frustration of ignorance and the just below the surface simmering of anger and bitterness agitated by every personally perceived or reported act of racial injustice (I still get angry at racial or any other type of legitimate injustice. However, now, it is truly righteous indignation that is usually brief and followed by the most powerful action on earth: prayer!).
By the Fall of 1992, I sat down to finish writing what would become the “From Slavery To Victory: One Man’s Journey” Radio Special. During Black History Month 1993--seven years after I had begun to seek the Lord for understanding--the one hour program aired on a Dallas/Fort Worth area radio station. In March of 1994 the program was awarded a internationally recognized Silver Angel by Excellence In Media and aired on stations around the nation in June. It is doing so again this Black History Month (the reader should consult with stations in your area that program gospel music to find out if and when they will air the program).
Thanks to the Lord, my search for understanding of my history turned out to be joyous, healing, liberating, hope inspiring and triumphant! This, I believe, will be the outcome for all of my fellow African Americans who undertake the same search and who start in the right place. And what if many of us did? I’m convinced a chapter far more glorious than the civil rights era will be written in the history of our people and that our children of that day will celebrate it every moment instead of one month out of a year. For just as it is written, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,” (Psalm 33:12a).
(All Scriptures quoted from the New International Version Bible.)
1 Our Ministry is still seeking to raise the estimated $2,500 necessary to present the Radio Special on this Web Site. You can make a designated secure gift for that pur-
pose on our Donation Page.