James Meredith says he has one last mission from God.
“It’s what I’ve believed for a long time but have been too scared to say,” said the 85-year-old civil rights pioneer.
He wants to see a “Race to Heal Church,” he said. “There is nobody who has clarified it better than the queen of England in the last few weeks by her reaction to her grandson marrying a black woman.”
Queen Elizabeth supported Prince Harry’s choice of Meghan Markle, whose mother is African American. The couple married in Buckingham Palace.
Meredith’s mission is to heal racial divisions through honest dialogue and to foster good moral character in today’s youth.
Meredith’s first mission took place when he became the first known black student at the all-white University of Mississippi in fall 1962.
That mission, he said, was “about breaking the system of white supremacy.”
The second mission came June 5, 1966, when he began what became known as the “March Against Fear.”
On the second day of that one-man walk from Memphis to Jackson, a white man shot him.
Meredith survived. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists came to Mississippi to finish the march.
Meredith said this second mission challenged the fear connected to the Southern “way of life” — a fear that affected both black and white Mississippians.
Ironically, it is fear that has kept him from starting his last mission, he said. “Here I am, considered the bravest man in the world, scared to do God’s will.”
Meredith recalls MLK’s ‘Mountaintop’ speech
The night before his April 4, 1968, assassination, King delivered what would be his final speech.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” he told the crowd. “Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
Meredith cited this speech, saying he, too, wants to do God’s will.
“There’s nothing wrong with taking care of man’s business,” he said, “but when you neglect God’s business, everything falls apart.”
Meredith says God has let him live to carry out this last mission.
On Martin Luther King Day, Meredith toured the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, filled with pictures of the civil rights pioneer.
When two people saw the white-bearded man, they whispered as they pointed at him.
“That’s James Meredith,” one said.
“No,” the other replied, “he’s dead.”
Meredith laughed in recalling the encounter.
Meredith, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 1996, said God has let him live long enough to carry out this last mission, pushing to raise society’s moral character.
For the past 40 years, “we’ve been afraid to use the word ‘moral character,’” he said. “We need to be about instilling good and right values in people.”
If the black church takes on this task, he said, “the world will follow.”
Racial reconciliation needed because ‘we’re not hearing each other.’
The Rev. John Perkins of Jackson, who has spoken from middle America to the Middle East, welcomes Meredith’s idea of healing. “That has been my mission in life,” he said.
Racial reconciliation is needed more than ever because society’s messages have devolved into babble — the nation’s political parties, constituencies and cultures all speaking different languages, he said. “We’re not hearing each other.”
His new book, “One Blood,” discusses why more work must take place across racial lines. “We all bleed the same,” and yet some still put race ahead of friendship, he said.
Rather than people seeking to “demonize others,” he said, seek to solve the problems.
He said he differs with Meredith on some of his views but welcomes his call for instilling good values. “There has been a family breakdown,” he said, “and children suffer the most.”
SOURCE: Jerry Mitchell
Mississippi Clarion Ledger