Fifty years make the distinction for Sam Oni
Each semester, I finish my historical past lessons by asking college students to look ahead fifty years and picture having grownup kids and perhaps grandchildren. The subsequent step is to think about what modifications may need taken place. Is there one thing they worth sufficient to dedicate their lives to in order that the world modifications for the higher half a century from now?
Latest years have seen the fiftieth anniversary of key occasions within the civil rights motion. I remind college students of the sacrifices made by massive numbers of scholars and adults within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s to create a world of extra racial equality than most Individuals beforehand thought doable.
A number of individuals in Georgia at the moment are being honored for his or her main roles. In 1961, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter entered the College of Georgia following a court docket ruling. Quickly after, Rufus Harris, president of Mercer College, started searching for a strategy to voluntarily enter Mercer College, a personal college funded by Georgia Baptists. This resulted within the admission of Sam Oni from Ghana, a product of the Baptist mission discipline, in 1963. The College of Georgia and Mercer College lately celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of those occasions as a serious milestone in historical past of those establishments.
One level that has obtained little consideration is that Sam Oni is an African who performed an essential position within the American civil rights motion. He participated in quite a few acknowledged historic occasions and received to know a few of the most well-known rulers. Right this moment, he stays comparatively unknown despite the fact that the variety of Africans has elevated dramatically in Atlanta and surrounding communities.
Sam arrived in 1963 after a year-long battle with Baptists over his admission to varsity. He was assigned a room within the freshman dorm with famed basketball participant Don Baxter, who was a ministry pupil. About fifty yards down the road from the dormitory was the Tatnall Sq. Baptist Church on the college campus. His first customer was the pastor of this church who got here to inform him that he could be turned away if he tried to go to their church. Don and Sam went to a different church on the town attended by most of Mercer’s lecturers and sought membership. Sam was chosen to be voted on. It took three ballots earlier than the declared opponents have been defeated. Nevertheless, Sam by no means felt welcome when he attended church there.
Quick ahead fifty years. Over Valentine’s Day weekend, Amy-Jill Levine gave a sequence of three lectures at Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia. The sequence was sponsored by varied Protestant church buildings within the metropolis in addition to the college. Sam had met Levine just a few weeks earlier whereas lecturing at Mercer College they usually rapidly turned heat associates. I invited Sam to attend conferences in Brenau, attend my church on Sunday mornings, after which go to lunch with Levine on the Episcopal Church on the town.
These occasions befell in a metropolis identified for its political and spiritual conservatism. A couple of years in the past, Gainesville was the center of a congressional district recognized as essentially the most conservative district in the US. Right this moment it’s nonetheless very conservative, but additionally features a rising inhabitants of retirees who come from all components of the japanese United States. The town’s major Baptist church was a serious sponsor of lectures that includes a Jewish scholar talking about Jesus.
I attend a big Presbyterian church. Sam joined me for a short enterprise assembly in a big social corridor earlier than Sunday college, which supplied a chance to introduce him to many individuals. I am unable to converse to how Sam felt, however the heat and enthusiasm of the greetings from individuals I knew warmed me inside. We then attended the category I train and have been made much more welcome. Once we entered the normal morning service, we noticed an African household within the congregation, about six younger black kids seated with different kids for his or her particular a part of the service, and an African American household visiting. These households and my pal Sam have been handled as warmly as anybody else who got here by means of the doorways of the church.
My historical past college students reside in a world the place they see individuals of all ethnicities round them in eating places, on public transport, in church – in all places they go. They do not know what it was prefer to have separate bathrooms and seats to guard white individuals from contact with black individuals. That is fairly totally different from the state of affairs fifty years in the past. Change has been the results of the sacrifice of many individuals, together with my pal Sam. I hope they too will spend money on one thing that can change the world for the higher, as evidenced by the therapy of Sam Oni in a church in South final Sunday morning.
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