By Ralph E. Moore Jr.
In this week between the holidaze of Christmas and New Year (Kwanzaa week), I find myself thinking about things a little more deeply. For example:
Otherworldliness and hitting that number
Earlier last week, a member of our St. Ann Committee for the first Black saints from the United States, told us she hit the number the night before. It all started when I gave her and another committee member buttons that read “Since 1828 Mother Mary Lange, OSP understood BLACK LIVES MATTER Oblate Sisters of Providence, St. Frances Academy.” Weeks ago, she put it in her car and only happened to run across it when she was cleaning out her car before taking it to the shop for repair. There in her vehicle she found the Oblate blue button and someone with her noticing the big white numbers 1828 encouraged her to play that number. She did and it came out that day as 1288 in the pick four of the Maryland Lottery of December 20. She boxed it and so, the 1828 was among her picks and she won $400! The next day, without any prompting, she stopped by St. Frances Academy and left a donation to Peace Camp. She is a very kind person who heaven sent funds for her car repair perhaps because she drives people to and from church on Sundays because they do not own cars.
Otherworldliness: part two and the dreamworld connection
My favorite teacher of all time was Sister Justina Matthews of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. She taught me in third grade at St. Pius V School in Harlem Park. Sister Justina was stern, kind and an outstanding teacher. Sister Justina liked me. She always said encouraging things to me (“You could grow up to be president of the United States one day.”). And she always gave me free candy. When she worked the candy table during recess, she’d give me the goods and refused to take my nickel. But her cheerleading words meant much more to me than the handful of penny treats. Sister Justina Matthews, OSP left more of a mark on my spirit than any other teacher I had in elementary-middle school, high school, college or since. And I’ve had some good ones…
When I was in college, out of the blue I had a dream about Sister Justina one night. I don’t remember what happened in the dream exactly. But I mentioned to my mother, when I saw her later in the day, that I had a dream about Sister. She then responded that someone called her earlier to tell her Sister Justina had died the previous night. I have her picture on my wall.
Time marches on through good times and bad times
The Santa at Mondawmin Mall has been a proud Black Santa for our community’s children for 38 years. His name is Luke Durant and I thank him for all the children over all the years who joyfully got to whisper wishes to someone who looks like them. Our two daughters got to sit on his lap, three of our grandchildren did, too. What a wonderful tradition Santa Luke represents.
Our older daughter, Zahra, is the same age as Officer Keona Holley who just died from wounds received while on duty for the Baltimore City Police Department and for us, the citizens of Baltimore. God bless Officer Holley; she had a whole lot of life ahead of her. Daughters and dads have a special bond. If her dad is still alive, he grieves especially deeply, I am sure.
The younger daughter, Nia, is named for the fifth day of Kwanzaa (nia means purpose). Her middle name is Salima so her name translates from the Swahili and Arabic as ‘Purposed for Peace.’ Zahra Jamila means ‘Beautiful Flower.’
There will be lots of special birthdays coming to our family next year: my mother will celebrate her 100th heavenly birthday (she died in 1988). I will turn 70. Someone will turn a birthday that ends in 5, another will be 40 and someone will turn sweet 16. One of the grandboyz will turn two and another will be two. Watch mid-year for a photo of us all celebrating a super year.
Next year, my wife, Dana’s dad, General Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr., will have a Navy battleship named for him. It is quite an honor, the family feels. Dana’s father was the first African-American pilot in the United States Marine Corps and the first Black general in the Marines. He retired as a three- star general but the military often denies honors to Black folk. Otherwise, he should have been a four-star general. Either way, we thank him and all military veterans for their service. We thank all anti-war movement veterans, too.
Finally, staring at the FOR WHITE AMERICANS ONLY SIGN as the six Black candidates for sainthood wait outside the Pearly Gates
On December 14th, some of our committee members took a box containing 1,115 signatures to the Post Office and mailed it to Pope Francis at Vatican City in Rome. The postage was $85 for a box that the clerk wrapped very heavily with packing tape. The tracking information says the box at JFK in New York was departing the airport for its destination at 12:55 am, December 20th. We have not heard if it arrived yet. We sent it to the apartment where Pope Francis lives and not to St. Peter’s Basilica.
We have urged the Pope to canonize (officially recognize) the first Black American saints just like Whites have been recognized. And despite the existence of the expensive, painfully slow, racially biased, and unevenly applied process, we call on him to designate sainthood for: Mary Lange, Augustus Tolton, Henriette DeLille, Julia Greeley, Pierre Toussaint and Thea Bowman ‘santo subito’ meaning sainthood suddenly. We know the Catholic Church has an operating system of silence, secrecy and slowness. But we also know what Frederick Douglass reminded us, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
And so, we close the year on a thought translated from the Latin, ‘Fiat justitia ruot caelum’ or ‘let justice be done though the heavens fall.’ Peace in the New Year, and please enjoy “the thrill of hope.”.
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