Black folks have a long history of things happening that are unjust. That is the time to call on Black fore-fathers who fought greater, bigger battles, for inspiration. Frederick Douglass taught us that power conceded nothing with a struggle; it never did and never will. He taught us that the slave that is whipped easiest is whipped oftenest. Malcolm X taught us that once we set a goal, or entered a battle, we must win by any means necessary. One pioneer after another in every field of endeavor taught us that when one door closes, another opens. In education, the powers that be closed the school house doors and Blacks built their own schools, including a Black College system. As an aside on that subject, I still don't understand why the last Black College was built in Texas, as if the West Coast didn't exist or didn't need Black Colleges. These Black Colleges were mostly built by Black Churches and the mission was to meet the needs of young African Americans who were not welcome in white colleges.
There seems to have been a mission change from love, service, and justice, to personal prosperity. In the process, it seems that the monies have been redirected from meeting the needs of the masses to the immediate needs of the preachers and bishops. The needs are still there and while the doors to Civil Rights, business opportunity, justice, and government have been cracked, they are still not wide open. The powers that be are working overtime to re-shut most of the doors that have been opened that speak to power sharing, justice and equality.
Because of limited resources, a new crossroads re-introduces an old element into the struggle. That new element is internalized frustration where we turn on ourselves in the name of progress. When my son, Jamal, was recently attacked and punished for his religious beliefs at the Black College (ITC) where he taught in Atlanta, GA, he was at a crossroads. Should he fight the attack or lie down and take it? In effect, he was attacked for what his department head, perceived to be his opposing homosexual marriage, after he invited a guest speaker to an informal, unofficial gathering to address a group of students on an entirely different subject. After the meeting broke up and everyone was going their separate way, the speaker offered a free book that opposed homosexual marriage. The department head decided that my son knew this, sanctioned it, and needed to be punished, though he merely had the speaker there. I suppose that was guilt by association, as far as the department head was concerned. And so, he was punished by being terminated. He has decided to fight the punishment by legal means, as the actions taken by the school affects his reputation as a Professor, a Scholar, and a Christian.
As part of the school's campaign to punish my son, the department head and the provost, along with the "blessing" of the school president, changed 10 students' grades in three of my son's student classes, upward as much as 45 %, and changing one student's grade from an F to an A-. The department head further contacted professional colleagues across the country to try and dig up dirt but came up empty handed. This was all going on, even though my son had received a promotion and praises for his work on behalf of the school. They terminated him and offered him six months' severance pay to promise to keep quiet and not sue. He refused.
What's amazing to me is that the University has chosen to utilize the limited resources for legal fees to promote the department head's same-sex marriage agenda, rather than for the work of better educating the students. I doubt this is what UNCF has in mind as they ask for money for Black Colleges saying, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Well, so is money.
For my son, the additional difficulty of finding another teaching position is the timing. No door has opened yet, as these events occurred after most colleges had completed their recruitment for the upcoming school year. However, we believe that when one door shuts, another opens. This may be just the door to open a new School of Theology, outside the south. Thirty years ago I was fired by Xerox Corporation and that was the impetus that got me over the Bar Exam.
The thing about reaching a crossroads is that you must have a positive option, or you are stuck between two bad choices: the proverbial rock and a hard place. Somewhere I read that a person should prepare himself or herself to climb the ladder of success. The other half of that story is that parents should give their child a ladder to climb, if they can. I'm aware there are a great number of parentless children. For them, it seems that every day can be a crossroads. The problem is that every crossroads has a choice between right and wrong and requires some advice or direction as to which road to take. When a child is parentless, it is up to the rest of us to become surrogates as best we can.
Many stories have been written about my son's ordeal, in various newspapers across the southwestern United States, and in Georgia, in particular. They include The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Post, The Presbyterian Layman, and the World on Campus. The question behind the story is where does the faith come from to stand up and fight? Dr. King taught us in one of his many messages that it's easy to acclaim your faith that God will sustain you when there is no one watching and there are no obvious consequences. However, it is much more difficult when there are visible consequences.
When Jamal felt the call of God in his twenties to teach and preach, he moved forward and ended up with degrees from across the world. His degrees include a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in England. He has taught in many institutions of higher learning and preached and presented his scholarly works across the globe. His book, "Thinking Out Loud " will be released in September, 2012. His future will be visible for the whole world to see as he continues preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and reforming Christian Education through his J.D. Institute, a Christian Think Tank, and a Journal of Christian Education. He is planning a Book Signing in Atlanta on September 18, 2012.
The final chapter is yet to be written. To paraphrase the Bible, we need to run on to see where the end of this story of perseverance and success in the face of this obstacle will be.