A Testament Of Hope

Sometimes the seemingly 24/7 cacophony of news, much of it "bad", can unduly influence one's sense of hope. We often like to believe that that things aren't really as bad as they seem. But, then more "bad new" occurs, and we begin to think, that, no: yes, things are really bad, or maybe worse than we believed.

Thus, it was refreshing for me to spend several days at a recent retreat of the Andrew Goodman Foundation for its Vote Everywhere Ambassadors in Northern New Jersey. The student Ambassadors represented 42 colleges and universities across our nation.

The Foundation was formed by David Goodman and his wife Sylvia following the murder of David's older brother Andrew in Philadelphia, Mississippi in June of 1964. Andrew, from New York City, along with James Chaney from Mississippi, and Michael Schwerner also from NYC was part of the "Summer of 1964" voter registration campaign in Miss. They were killed as they traveled together with Andrew

In previous blogs in connection with the anniversaries of their deaths and last year's posthumous award by President Obama of the "Presidential Medal of Freedom to their respective families we wrote about the voter registration "Summer of 1964" in Mississippi.

We had come to know David and Andrew's parents. I wrote about my personal witness of their anguish and pain following the initial report that Andrew, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were "missing" on June 21st, 1964.

These were part of some of our thoughts as we met and spoke to the young Voting Everywhere Ambassadors last week.

The principal "take away" from our experiences at the Retreat can best be summarized by citing the title of the collected speeches, sermons, and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: "A TESTAMENT OF HOPE".

St. Augustine is reported to have said that "Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are."

The young college students at the Andrew Goodman Foundation Retreat are legatees of St. Augustine's daughters and of Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney and many other students in 1964 who constituted and Army of Conscience to register blacks to vote in Mississippi and redeem the soul of America.

One of the highlights of the Retreat was the opportunity for us to share with the "Ambassadors" knowledge about the now online availability of the University of San Francisco's 15 week course," FROM SLAVERY TO OBAMA-Renewing The Promise of Reconstruction".

The daily loop of news about the Presidential elections, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, continuing conflicts between the police and African-Americans in many communities, floods in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, record breaking performance of athletes at the Olympics, ISIS, continuing nationwide gun violence, Black Lives Matters' criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians and the reaction of major Jewish organizations(traditional allies and supporter of our "Civil Rights" Movement"), nationwide homelessness, widening income inequality, racial disparities of sentencing and incarceration in our criminal justice system, etc. could overwhelm one's sense of hope.

The absence of knowledge about the Voting Rights Ambassadors who met together last week, could engender cynicism and a feeling of hopelessness

We are happy to be a witness to tell you: THERE IS HOPE!

Attending, listening and speaking to these extraordinary young people at the Andrew Goodman Foundation retreat further confirms our belief in the wisdom of the author Alice Walker. She captioned her prize winning book: "WE ARE THE ONES WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR"