Sunday, November 22, 2009

Big ass elephants

by Steen Miles

The keynote speaker for the recent 53rd Annual Freedom Fund Dinner for the DeKalb NAACP gave a riveting speech that captivated the audience. He invoked an African proverb about elephants crossing the river and called on those who had "arrived" to become like "those big ass elephants" and begin to help bring across the medium and smaller elephants.

Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, the former Southeast Regional Director of the NAACP, suggested as I have in this space, that too many of us in affluent Dee'Kab (he emphasized the Dee) County have forgotten from whence we came. In a powerful and passionate speech/sermon that lasted some 45 minutes, Rev. Johnson told the packed audience at St. Philip A.M.E. in Decatur that he "would not tithe one dime or hold membership in a church that did not support the NAACP." Amen, brother!

Sadly, only two major churches, The Greater Piney Grove Baptist and Victory, took out ads in the program booklet and Rev. Dr. William Flippin and his son Rev. Richard Flippin were the only ministers of major churches in attendance. My own church, Greenforest Community Baptist, was an award recipient for its superior social services ministry, headed by Deacon Benny Boyd. He and his wife Barbara Boyd represented Greenforest.

The mega churches and their pastors were conspicuously missing.

Perhaps they had made a contribution in some other way or bought tickets. Granted these are tough economic times, and we are all having to scale back. But , many people in these large congregations manage to continue to pay their tithes and offerings as an act of faith.

What faith is being shown in an organization as important as the NAACP by our faith leaders? What message is being sent about the relevance of the 100-year-old organization? How many pastors have had their salaries cut or are about to lose their homes or cars and can't pay college tuitions? Not many. But, they are blessed like that. I suppose we aren't. Rev Dr. Johnson, an anointed man of substance and means, minced no words when he reminded us that when people get in trouble they call on "Jesus and the NAACP."

I didn't see any familiar faces of mega church pastors in DeKalb, and I pored through the program twice to make sure I didn't overlook anyone. I'm sure they purchased tables or at the very least a ticket or two. But there were no ads from our mega churches. Just an ad, as a show of support, would speak volumes.

Home Depot, Georgia Power and Coca Cola know the kind of dollars we spend with them. While I didn't recognize any representatives of those corporate giants, their ads were their presence.

Gregory Levette and Sons had an ad and Gregory Levette and a son were prominent in the audience. I fear too many of us in the faith community have schedules too full - booked out of state or in foreign countries and such - to attend something as ordinary as the 100th anniversary dinner of the NAACP in DeKalb.

I was taught growing up that charity begins at home and spreads abroad. We lead by example. For those of us who are of the Christian faith, a reminder that Jesus spent most of his time with the people, and he never got too busy or too important to personally see to the least, the lost and the forgotten. Now those big ass scribes and Pharisees are quite another matter.

Many of us are simply too caught up in self-indulgent delusions of grandeur to attend a little NAACP 100th Anniversary Dinner. None of us will see another 100 years. By the way, these words should not pass our lips: "Well I don't see anything they're doing."

The same could be said for our faith institutions if we point to the condition of our communities. Like that African proverb, some of us are like the big ass elephants. Some of us don't need any help to get across the river now. But like the elephant, we shouldn't forget that at one point we needed all the help we could get.

Steen Miles, The Newslady, is a retired journalist and former Georgia state senator. Contact Steen Miles at