This I Believe

Charles - AUSTELL, Georgia
Entered on November 8, 2006

The Power of Love Can Make The Impossible, Possible

I believe in the tender love of my mother and grandmother and the tough love of my grandfather.

My belief began shortly after I was born on my grandparents farm, near the meandering Mississippi, deep in the fertile bowels of the delta. They often sang me to sleep with a popular slave song. The melody was filled with strong emotions. It was like they were praying for something. Whenever I’d ask, they would say, it’s a song about hope, the future, a better life, a different world.

After enduring decades of Jim Crow my family joined a huge exodus from the Old South to the promise land. In the North they could vote, sit in any seat on the buses, and drink from any public fountain. Some of the men were so elated they kissed the ground in Los Angeles while the women frowned and opted to blow kisses. Little did I know they had literally sacrificed themselves to raise me, and those who came afterwards, free with opportunity to live the American dream.

I maintained an A average at an integrated grammar school. Grandpa said if I continued receiving good grades, I might be the first in the family to graduate from college, be a teacher, lawyer . . .

Our new home in the promise land was located in a concrete ghetto in South Central Los Angeles called, “Watts.” The projects exploded with poverty, gangs and violence. It was like a crazy earthquake rumbling, laughing and crying in an abyss of human misery. Numerous black eyes, cuts, and bruises plummeted my self esteem causing me to espouse the old postulate, “If you can’t beat ‘em . . . join ‘em.” Like so many inner-city males, my life soon became marked for an early grave, and if I were lucky, I’d grow old in prison. It would take more than a miracle to turn it around. It would take an impossible journey.

Mama’s tender love and Grandpa’s tough love broke the shackles of negative peers. It enabled me to keep my promise to him that I’d be the first in the family to graduate from college, be a teacher, lawyer . . .

When I argued my first case as a young legal aid attorney, I proudly parked my elderly hero’s wheelchair in the courtroom and when I taught my first class as a law professor, I did likewise for this brave World War I infantry soldier, parent, grandparent, deacon and noble provider. This self taught man worked as a janitor all day at the Veterans hospital and worked a second job late into the night to take care of his family.

My life has been an impossible journey. But, it was the power of love and living in a free society that made the impossible, possible. This is the genius of America . . . Home of the brave and land of the free. This I believe!