Posted by: morgan1965 | December 13, 2016

Contemplating “Truth” in the Season of Advent

The Season of Advent is an appropriate time to contemplate the matter of truth. What is truth?

This question has loomed before us in this 2016 presidential election cycle in a way that we have not seen before. Do facts constitute truth? When a statement is made, we wait for the response of the fact checkers to tell us the degree of veracity in the statement. In this season of politics and real life experiences, one is forced to ponder what can be believed. Can we believe the media, or politicians, or preachers, or teachers?

Some scholars define truth as “the state of being the case;” in other words, truth is fact. Truth, then, can be a body of facts.

Some dictionaries define fact as “something that actually exists.” Fact defined in this way equates with reality and truth. A fact, then, is something that is known through actual observation or experience. We see that there is a direct correlation between truth and fact.

A brief examination of truth and fact pushes one to consider the definition of belief. Belief, of course, can be defined in a variety of ways. Belief has to do with a tenet or body of tenets held by a group, such as a religious group. Belief is also about the conviction of the truth of some statement or fact or reality. A common synonym for belief is faith or credence. Some antonyms are disbelief, doubt and nonbelief.

In a recent blog (Blog posted by Seth Godin; December 1, 2016), Seth Godin posed the question “What kind of truth?” He suggests that often there is confusion between fact and belief. On the one hand, “there are facts that don’t change if the observer doesn’t believe: The age of the Eiffel Tower. The temperature in Death Valley. The number of people in the elevator.”

On the other hand, “there are outcomes that vary quite a bit if we believe: The results of the next sales call. Our response to medical treatment. The enjoyment of music.” To be sure, there is some degree of confusion as one attempts to discern between fact and belief in search of truth.

Recently, Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as its international word of the year (2016). This decision has emerged in the era of President-elect Donald Trump and Brexit. The dictionary defines post-truth as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” There has been a significant uptick in the use of this concept in 2016. The editors contend that this increase in usage is unfolding “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.” (“The Guardian,” November 15, 2016)

What are some implications for Christians in this conversation? Let me suggest that Christians are by definition committed to truth. From a biblical perspective, we are reminded that Jesus said, “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6) Furthermore, John’s Gospel declares that “the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Regarding truth from a Cristian perspective, we are reminded of this scripture passage: “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’.” (John 8: 31-32)

Humans have a way of disregarding what is true when it is convenient. As a child, I was taught to tell the truth in all circumstances.  Why not tell the truth? Why do some people tell the untruth? The untruth never prevails in the long term.

Einstein had this to say about truth: “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

William Cullen Bryant made this statement about truth in his poem, “The Battle-Field:”

“Truth, crushed to the earth, shall rise again;

The eternal years of God are hers;

But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,

And dies among his worshippers.”

In this Advent Season, we are making preparation to receive Jesus, who comes among us as one full of grace and truth. Yes, “He rules the world with truth and grace.”

Think About It!


Posted by: morgan1965 | November 23, 2016

The Holy Staples of Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving tradition goes back to the 17th century.  The Thanksgiving holiday is a very special holiday whose meaning has been corrupted by secular trends. There has been a continuing failure to lift up the religious foundations of the season.

Thanksgiving Day is an annual national holiday observed in the United States and Canada. Its original purpose was to celebrate the bountiful harvest and other blessings of the past year. Although Thanksgiving has deep roots in our religious traditions and practices, however, we experience it today mostly as a secular holiday.

Thanksgiving Day has evolved as a time when families gather and share a scrumptious meal together. A typical Thanksgiving Day might begin with a family breakfast. Many families will attend a local high school football game or a college football game. Still other families will watch a favorite team, whether college or professional, on television. Then there is the Thanksgiving Day dinner with a delectable menu. In my family, it was always a menu that included turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, sweet potatoes, collard greens, mashed turnips, and yeast rolls. Then there would be pies with sweet potato pie being the favorite. These were the stables of Thanksgiving Day dinner in my family.

To be honest, I still look forward to that kind of menu each year. Recently, I heard a sermon that caused me to ponder the question as to whether my favorite menu included the real stables of Thanksgiving.

What constitutes a genuine Thanksgiving celebration from a Christian perspective? To be sure, Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. It is a time to review and renew our family relationships. It is the time to probe in depth our relationship with God.

So, what are the staples of Thanksgiving? For me the real staples of Thanksgiving are the blessings that God has bestowed upon me. Our lists will not necessarily be the same, but I share my list with humility.

  1. Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
  2. The Gift of life.
  3. The gift of family – spouse, brother, sisters, children and grandchildren.
  4. A reasonable portion of good health – mind, body and soul.
  5. The freedom to be…
  6. The gift of a few “talents” and hobbies.
  7. The gift of retirement

These are some of the critical staples of Thanksgiving for me. What do you include on your list?

In this 2016 Thanksgiving Season, I am thinking about an old song, “Count Your Blessings.”

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.


Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

(Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897)

I am so thankful for the staples of Thanksgiving; yes, I praise God for what God has done and is doing in my life right now.

Praise the Lord!





Posted by: morgan1965 | November 17, 2016

A Flawed President-elect In God’s Hand

The United States electorate cast our ballots to determine our 45th president on November 8, 2016. After a very contentious primary, the electorate chose one of the two flawed presidential candidates to become the president-elect.

Now that the election is over, we have president-elect Donald Trump, who is a flawed person. Even if we had elected Hillary Clinton, we would be faced with a flawed president-elect.

Trump supporters, of course, are delighted with the outcome of the election. Clinton supporters, on the other hand, are perhaps angry, or disappointed, or afraid or disenchanted. No matter the sentiment, Donald Trump is the president-elect; the election is over.

Numerous articles have outlined Donald Trump’s flaws, and media pundits have expounded upon his many flaws. For example, Mr. Trump seems to shun the truth when it conveniently amplifies his argument. He has manifested streaks of racism, and once was charged with racial discrimination in his housing units. When he slammed an American-born judge for his Mexican heritage, he manifested his bigotry.

There are examples of misogyny in Mr. Trumps life as manifested in the “Access Hollywood Tape.” He typed Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman” while launching an endless attack upon a Gold Sar Mother and the Khan family. These are some of his more obvious flaws; perhaps there are others that you might want to include in your own list.

In a recent Facebook post, I made the following statement: “No matter who wins the 2016 presidential election, we have the blessed assurance that our Creator God still will be in charge. Our God is able. Our God dispenses justice, mercy, grace, peace and love.” This was my statement and I am sticking with it.

First, God is the potter. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). My prayer is that God will take our new president as a lump of flawed clay and shape him into a leader of all the people in this nation. At the same time, I am praying that God will shape me into a citizen who will support the new president when he is right and chastise him when he is wrong.

Second, Mr. Trump is our presidential leader now. Is he ready for the difficult and complex task of leadership that lies ahead of him? No, but neither was Moses. I pray that God will lead him, and he will follow, for God will lead him by day and by night. Donald Trump only has to follow. If Trump is to follow God’s leading, he will have to bury his ego, admit his errors and be open to learning new things and God’s way. God has a way of molding the clay because God is the potter.

The prophet Jeremiah describes the work of the potter and the clay. Jeremiah went down to the potter’s house where the potter was working at his wheel. The vessel that the potter was making was spoiled in the potter’s hand. The potter did not throw the spoiled clay away, but reworked it into a new vessel. “Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as the potter has done? Says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:5-6).

To be sure, God prepares leaders for leadership. Unless, the person resists and croons the words popularized by Dionne Warwick, “Don’t Make Me Over.” Consider these words:

“Don’t make me over.

Don’t pick on the things I say, the things I do

Just love me with all my faults

The way that I love you, I’m begging you.

Don’t make me over.”

In times like these, I am reminded of the hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

“Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!

Thou art the potter; I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.”

This is my prayer.

Think about it! And start praying.



Posted by: morgan1965 | October 25, 2016

Women, Politics and Sexism

As human beings, we mentally bank a variety of experiences and memories during our lifetime. A memorable experience for me occurred when I was in elementary school. We lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey for four years in the early 1950s. I remember my mother taking us to see the Miss America Pageant parade on the boardwalk. This venture enabled the parade watchers to see the Miss America contestants as they rode by in their respective vehicles. In recent days, however, I have been compelled to revisit this childhood experience because of what we see unfolding in our nation as we participate in the 2016 presidential election cycle.

In 1965 the theologian Harvey Cox published a book titled “The Secular City” that describes what Cox calls “The Girl.” He says in part, “…that The Girl is an idol. She functions as the source of value, the giver of personal identity. But the values she mediates and the identity she confers are both spurious. Like every idol she is ultimately a creation of our own hands and cannot save us.” In Cox’s assessment, Miss America represents The Girl.

Harvey Cox further notes that the “Playboy” magazine “does for the boys what Miss America does for the girls.” He argues that the boys “need a total image of what it means to be a man.” “For ‘Playboy’s’ man, others – especially women – are for him. They are his leisure accessories, his playthings. For the Bible, man only becomes fully man by being for the other.”

The above quotes suggest that there is a problem in American culture. The problem has to do with our lingering perceptions of women and how we treat women. The problem also relates to the designated place for women in our society. Historically, women tended to stay at home, and when women entered the workplace, there often seemed to be a glass ceiling when it came time to rise up the corporate ladder. Even today there is a serious issue of pay equity for women.

We have heard the term, misogyny, bounced around in this current political season. In plain language, misogyny is the hatred of women. Is there a hatred of women in the United States culture? Perhaps, hatred is too strong a term.

Let me venture to say, however, that it seems to me that there is a subtle anti-female sentiment that continues to manifest itself in our American culture. On the one hand, the woman is idolized. On the other hand, women are less appreciated when they step out of their traditional roles in the society.

It was not until 1920 that women were allowed to vote [Nineteenth Amendment] in the United States. The election in 1920 marked the first time that women were allowed to vote in the United States presidential election. Ninety-six years later a major political party has nominated a woman to run for the office of president of the United States.

The United States has not yet elected a female head of state, however dozens of countries around the world have had female heads of state at one time or the other over many decades. Sri Lanka elected a female head of state in 1960, while 20 years later the United Kingdom elected its first female prime minister. Switzerland has had five female presidents.

It was not until 1956 that the General Conference of the Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women. Twenty-four years passed before Marjorie Matthews was elected and consecrated as the first female bishop in the United Methodist Church.

Why? Why has it taken so long to get the first female nominee for president, and why did it take so long before women were ordained in the UMC and a woman elected to the episcopacy? In the case of the UMC, there has been a cultural bias against women ministers that has been fostered by both men and women. It was my experience, as a district superintendent and a residential bishop, that there was often reticence, if not vocal resistance to the appointment of female pastors. To be sure, this was the exception and not the rule; yet, this cultural dynamic was real.

This same kind of cultural bias is present in our nation in general and in the current presidential election process in particular.

Women are not to be treated as “The Girl.” They are not to be treated as some kind of trophy. They are not to be physically abused, psychologically abused or sexually abused. In plain language, women must be treated with respect and dignity in the church and in the larger society.

The presidential election cycle should be devoid of any signs or symbols of misogyny.

Think about it!

Resource – Harvey Cox, “The Secular City. New York: The McMillan Co, 1965.

Posted by: morgan1965 | September 25, 2016

The Politics of Change

The word “change’ is heard often in the midst of a general election season. This current election season is no different than previous election seasons – voters want change.

What is change? As a verb, change means “to make or become different,” according to the Oxford dictionary. Change also means take or substitute one thing for something else.

When used as a noun, change is “the act or instance of making or becoming different.” When referring to money, loose coins constitute change.

Do American citizens want change, or something different from what currently exists, or what they now have and experience in their life? The answer, of course, is yes when change will improve one’s personal well-being. On the other hand, the answer is no if it means that one has to change his/her thinking or what one does.

Voters tend to ask this question: What is in your bag of goodies for me? Will I be able to get a job or a better job? Will I be able to get a higher salary and be able to buy a house? Such critical questions have to do with one’s quality of living.

Some observers would characterize these concerns as populist expectations. Politicians have learned that it is helpful to promise change, even when they know that they will not likely be able to deliver on their promise.

So, America is seeking a leader, a president, who will bring about the needed and necessary changes in Washington. Changes that will improve significantly the quality of life for all Americans. Who is that leader?

Change, to be sure, is a very broad concept that is open to a variety of interpretations and misconceptions. When there is a call for change, there is no common agreement with regard to chat needs to change, or be changed. In this 2016 election cycle, we know for sure that there will be a change in who is president. But, will a change in the White House usher in the desired change?

It is appropriate to want our president to bring about change as it relates to specific problems and concerns, such as immigration, criminal justice reform, the economy, taxes, jobs, etc. What about our structures and systems that hold our government together? Can there be any change that eliminates particular problems and concerns without the appropriate changes in structure and systems.

The dilemma that we face is articulated in an article by David Shribman titled “Voters want change – yet they like how things are now.” (“Las Vegas Sun, September 23, 2016). He said: “The 2016 campaign is a struggle for the hearts of voters who are at once desperate for change – and satisfied with their well-being. It is an electorate that is impatient with America’s leadership – even as it is highly supportive of America’s leader.”

Who effects change in Washington? Is it the President? Is it the Senate? Is it the House of Representatives?

If we want to see meaningful change, it might come about when the President, the Senate and the House of Representatives begin to work together on a bipartisan basis for the good of the nation, and not for the political gain of any political party.

Now, that would be a change.

Think about it!





Posted by: morgan1965 | August 4, 2016

Black Lives Matter

When I gaze back into our national history, I cannot help but wonder:

Did black lives matter?

The original Constitution had provisions that allowed southern states to count slaves as 3/5 persons for purposes of apportionment in the U.S. Congress; but, slaves could not even vote.

Did black lives matter?

How have African Americans been able to survive the onslaught of violence suffered at the hands of white people in the making of America?

Did black lives matter?

The violence against African Americans began when native people were taken into captivity on the shores of Africa and transported to America on ships (The Middle Passage) that featured tight packing, the lash, starvation, rape, and brutality.

Did black lives matter?

When the African men, women and children arrived in America, they were subjected to the seasoning process, prior to being sold into slavery on some distant plantation in an unfamiliar setting.

Did black lives matter?

Family members often were separated from each other with individual members      being sold to the highest bidder.

Did black lives matter?

The seasoning process was not only used to train persons for slavery, but to break their spirit, erase their culture and force their submission to slavery.

Did black lives matter?

After the Civil War, the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery was adopted by Congress and ratified by the states on December 18, 1865.

Did black lives matter? 

Emmett Till, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr. and others were murdered.

Did black lives matter?

In the ensuing years after the Civil War until the present day, black people have suffered under the plight of The Black Codes, Jim Crow, denial of voting rights, the KKK, segregation, discrimination, lynching and oppression (economic and political), and mass incarceration.

Did black lives matter?

Too many unarmed black young men have been killed by police officers and civilians over the past several years.

Did black lives matter?

Yes, black lives do matter. Some folk counter with the response that all lives matter. Such a response misses the point, because all lives do matter. Blue lives have always mattered. White lives have always mattered. But, what about black lives? Have black lives always mattered? As reflected in the brief chronology above, one sees that black lives have not always mattered.

If all lives matter in our society, then we would not have a procession of young, unarmed black men being killed at the hands of white police officers. There would be no need to proclaim that black lives do matter.

Black lives do matter!

Think about it!












Posted by: morgan1965 | May 18, 2016

Reflections on General Conference: Forty Years Later

It was a beautiful afternoon, May 4, 2016, when our airplane landed in Portland, Oregon. As we were making our descent, I began to think about the fact that it had been forty years since I was last in Portland to attend the General Conference in May of 1976. It was my first General Conference.

The clergy colleagues in the former Southern New Jersey Conference had elected me as the first alternate clergy delegate to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. I was 33 years old and I had been a member of the conference since 1968, a mere eight years. To be sure, my election was both a surprise and an honor. I was a rookie (first time delegate) who was not very familiar with the politics of the UMC at the general church level.

Dr. Charles Sayer, a long time clergy delegate from the Southern New Jersey Conference, took me under his wing and introduced me to General Conference. He introduced me to a number of delegates and church leaders from across the connection. He gave me an opportunity to participate in the conference by allowing me to serve as his alternate on the conference floor several times. I very much appreciated his tutelage and hospitality.

This experience gave me a chance to see the UMC at work. Although I had heard stories about General Conference from my father and read about General conference, this experience provided me with an entirely new view. I came to understand that a first time experience at General Conference is foundational for learning to be an effective delegate at General Conference.

In the subsequent years, I was privileged to serve as a local church pastor for 22 years, and district superintendent for seven years. I did not return to General conference in 1980, largely due to the fact that I transferred to the Northern New Jersey Conference in 1979 to take the appointment at St. Mark’s UMC in Montclair, NJ. In 1984, the Elders of the NNJAC graciously included me in the General Conference clergy delegation. I served as a clergy delegate to General Conference again in 1988, 1992, and 1996. In 1996 the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference elected me to the Episcopacy.

Now, I have returned to Portland as a retired bishop of the church. Looking back, the years have passed by quickly, but the experiences have been rewarding. As I write this blog, I am looking forward with the prayerful attitude that the General Conference delegates will find ways to lead the church into the future. This future, I believe, is filled with hope and promise.

So much has changed since 1976. Portland is certainly not the same. The world is not the same. The UMC is not the same. I am not the same. We cannot cling to the past, but we must discern all the ways that God is leading us forward as pilgrim disciples.

Posted by: morgan1965 | January 17, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. Lives On

When my brother and sister graduated from Morgan State College in 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the commencement speaker. At that time, he was giving strong and significant leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. As a youth, I was intrigued by Martin Luther King’s notoriety. As I grew older, and entered into college and theological seminary, I became more aware of his civil rights leadership, his moral leadership and his theological leadership.

As I observed King’s actions and his words, I realized that he was standing on “Christ, the Solid Rock.” It is appropriate to explore briefly his journey to the Rock.

This weekend, beginning with Friday, January 15th we are celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was born on January 15, 1929. This would be his 87th birthday; so, we celebrate his birthday and give thanks to God for giving the world the gift of a prophet who became somewhat of a legend in his own time.

It is informative to note that family, religious, and educational experiences were decisive in the shaping of Martin Luther King’s destiny. King was reared in a Christian home in which there were few signs of poverty. King’s father and grandfather were Baptist ministers, and their teaching and example influenced King as he grew up. The King children were immersed in regular Sunday school attendance. The King family was deeply rooted in Christian soil, thus, providing a solid Christian foundation for the King and his siblings.

The King children were taught to embody love and respect for their parents and their elders. They learned such Protestant virtues as hard work, honesty, thrift, order and courtesy. It was important to be well educated in things religious and secular. These virtues paved the road to competence and culture.

Martin Luther King, Jr. stood firmly in the Christian tradition. He did not close his mind to other traditions, but learned from Mahatma Gandhi, as well as a variety of philosophers and theologians. Jesus Christ, and his doctrine of love, was at the center of King’s life and ministry. He came to know Jesus as a friend to whom he could go in the midst of any trials and tribulations. King had an active prayer life and this prayer life enabled him to grow in his relationship with God. His prayer life guided him through the storms of life.

Martin Luther King, Jr. became somewhat of a legend in his own lifetime and he died the death of a martyr. King, however, in his teaching and example, continues to have a powerful influence on our life and time today.

On this birthday observance, we celebrate with thanksgiving God’s gift of a prophet. This prophet gifted us with his life. During his lifetime he taught us how to employ love as a regulating ideal in the civil rights movement. He taught us to respect ourselves and our neighbors. He taught us to envision a world of equality – racial, social, and economic. The Dream lives on and cannot be allowed to die.

Posted by: morgan1965 | January 2, 2016

God’s Fresh Beginnings in the New Year

It is truly a rich blessing, a privilege and an opportunity for us as we enter into a New Year, 2016. It seems to me that each New Year brings with it God’s fresh beginnings and opportunities. God is always doing new things and providing for us fresh opportunities.

When we enter the New Year, there is a tendency to look back and examine where we have come from and what has happened in our world. During the past year, we have witnessed a great deal of political wrangling in Washington DC and on the campaign trail of both political parties, Democrats and Republicans. It is difficult for politicians to agree on most things. On the economic front, we have witnessed increasing improvement in the overall U.S. economy. There have been terror attacks, however, in various parts of the world including the United States. These random attacks engender fear in our nation. We seem to live in an upside down world.

We are wondering who will be the next president of the United States. Will it be a democrat or a republican; a woman or a man; a conservative, a moderate or a liberal? We ask: What direction is the nation headed in and at what cost?

Personally, are you afraid about the future of our nation and the world in which we live? Perhaps you are not afraid, but you are one who has deep concerns.

As I ponder the days ahead, I am convinced that the problems of the world cannot be solved by humankind on our own. Instead, it is God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who has the world in God’s hands. We must rely on the power and presence of God to guide us through the difficult days and to keep us anchored in Jesus even in the best of times.

As you strive to be a faithful pilgrim disciple, let Jesus lead you, because He knows the Way and will protect you on the Way. Remember that God is with us, and our God will guide us, provide for us and protect us. Our God is able and our God loves us. With a God like this, we cannot fail.

The New Year is here, so let’s go forward with faith, trusting that God will take care of us in the worst of times and in the best of times. Let’s get busy and do the work of Christmas as described by Howard Thurman in his poem, “The Work of Christmas.”

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make 
music in the heart.” 

Think about it and get going. May your New Year be filled with joy, hope and peace.

Posted by: morgan1965 | December 28, 2015

Morgan Student Civil Rights Pioneers (1947-1963)

On December 18, 2015, Morgan State University awarded an honorary degree to the “Morgan Student Civil rights Pioneers, 1947-1963.” The Commencement Program contained an explanatory statement. “Some of the unsung heroes and un-exalted pioneers of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century were Morgan State college students who were on the cutting edge and in the vanguard of peaceful protests and civil disobedience that transformed the nation and brought a fuller measure of citizenship to all of its people. In the decades of the forties, fifties, sixties, Morgan State College students were precedent and paradigm for the peaceful sit-ins and the mass arrests that became the backbone of the Movement two decades later. Long before the now-famous lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960, a generation of bold, visionary, courageous, defiant, Morgan –educated and Morgan-inspired students launched a frontal attack on segregation and racial discrimination in Baltimore and in Maryland through a series of sit-ins and mass arrests that overcrowded the jails of Baltimore, overwhelmed the staunch opponents of integration and led to the dismantling of segregation in a number of establishments and institutions throughout the city and the state.”

When I arrived on Morgan’s campus in September 1961, I was not aware of the fact that the nearby theater was racially segregated. I was accustomed to going to the neighborhood theater in my hometown, Wilmington, Delaware. To be sure, racial segregation was prevalent all across the nation. A stark reminder of Baltimore’s racial segregation was manifested at the Pennsylvania Railroad Station. When I took the train to Baltimore to return to campus, African Americans had to wait at the back of the Q until all white people who wanted to take a Yellow Cab had been served.

In this historical context, the Morgan State College student demonstrations came to a head in the spring of 1963, when mass demonstrations unfolded at the theater in the Northwood Shopping Center which was located across the road from the Morgan campus. The theater was the last segregated business enterprise in the shopping center. Professor August Meier later wrote that the theater owner’s “determined resistance led to the largest and most militant demonstrations in the history of Morgan State’s Civic Interest Group.”

As a sophomore student at Morgan State College at the time, I joined the student demonstrations at the Northwood Movie Theater. Over the weekend students were arrested by the dozens. On Monday evening, I decided that I would be among those who would resist the police directive to disburse from the theater entrance. The group that I was with was promptly placed under arrest because we did not comply with the police directive [Monday evening, February 18, 1963]. There were young women and men in the group.

The women and the men were separated. I was placed in a police paddy wagon with a small group of fellow students. A young white police officer rode in the wagon with us. He had some brief conversation with us. I recall that he said something to the effect that he hoped we would not get into more serious trouble. The paddy wagon journey was brief, because we were taken to the Eastern Police Precinct headquarters which was adjacent to the Morgan campus.

On arrival at the precinct station, we were processed and I was place in a two person cell with another student. I was not finger printed. The next morning, we were taken before a judge in the municipal court which was located in the same building. The bail was set at $300, plus an additional $100 for trespassing. Needless to say, no organization was prepared to bail any of the students out of jail. More than 400 students were arrested over a several day period. About 1500 people were estimated to be participating in the picket lines during that time period. The municipal court was flooded with students and the arrested students were overwhelming the city jail, especially the women students.

After spending one night at the precinct jail, we were transported to the Baltimore City Jail. As my group entered the city jail, I heard one inmate exclaim: “What are you guys doing here?” We were there because we decided that we could no longer tolerate segregation in our campus neighborhood. We were there because the municipal court judge had set what proved to be punitive bail. We participated in the mass demonstrations because our purpose was to further topple the walls of segregation in Baltimore.

The jail experience was very traumatic for some, mainly because we stayed in jail longer than we had originally anticipated. Nevertheless, life in jail is difficult for anyone. While there, we were separated entirely from the regular inmates. On Wednesday, all of the students, male and female, were assembled in the jail auditorium where we were addressed by several different Morgan administrators. This gathering served to boost the student morale.

Ultimately, the student demonstrations broke the barrier of segregation at the Northwood Theater. The negotiations involved Morgan representatives, student representatives, political representatives and the theater owner. Finally, the theater owner capitulated. The majority of students were released from jail on Thursday of the week of mass demonstrations [Thursday, February 21, 1963] when a city judge dismissed all of the charges.

Professor Fisher took me and a few other students back to campus in his car. On the way back to campus, he stopped at a sub shop and bought hot subs for each student with him. That sub was the best sub that I had ever tasted in my life. Jail food is jail food.

It was great to get out of jail and back to campus. We, of course, had to catch up with our missed class work. It was gratifying to know that the last bastion of segregation in our campus neighborhood had been defeated.

When I got out of jail, I wrote a letter to my parents and briefly shared with them the fact that I had participated in the demonstrations and spent three nights in jail. I told them that I was compelled to share in the protest demonstrations. I was committed to the student cause.

Personally, I did not immediately go to see a movie at the Northwood Theater. My first stop at the theater, however, was something of a bitter sweet experience.

Perhaps there is some irony in this experience of racial desegregation in Baltimore. The precinct station is still there, but the expanded Morgan campus completely surrounds it. Also, the Northwood Shopping Center is now owned by Morgan State University. A part of the property is also home to the Earl Graves School of Business facility.

It was an honor and a very humbling experience to be awarded a Doctor of Laws degree by my alma mater. I will cherish this honorary degree and hold dear the fond memories of my years at Morgan.

It was a nostalgic moment when we sang the second verse of the alma mater, “Fair Morgan” during the commencement ceremony.

“Fair Morgan, as onward the years quickly fly,

And thou livest in memory sweet,

We bring thee our laurels whatever they be,

And lay them with joy at thy feet.”




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