To hear the mainstream media tell the story, you would have thought that I, a black man, had walked into a hornet’s nest of racists when I decided to attend Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. In reality, my experience was the complete opposite.
Instead of hooded Klansman frothing with hate and venom, I made dozens of new Facebook friends and gained a hundred Twitter followers.
One lady from New Jersey asked me if I was “afraid” because I was one of the “few blacks in attendance?”
I looked at her square in the eye and said, “Ma’am, the only thing I’m afraid of is that if I don’t hurry, I’m not going to make it to the restroom in time.”
We spoke of family, laughed, shared and she wept as she embraced me with hugs and kisses while thanking me for being there. (What a complete bigot, that lady!)
Beck’s rally was meant to restore faith hope and charity in America. And that was the spirit of the day.
To be sure, I was one of the few blacks there that historic day. I’m sure to many I stuck out like a sore thumb. Or, perhaps more aptly, like a chocolate chip smack dab in the middle of a giant sugar cookie.
Perhaps that’s why I was interviewed by at several news outlets.
When asked how long I had been waiting for the event to begin, I turned all three interviewers’ faces to stone when I replied, “about 24 hours.” I’m sure they thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.
Like most Americans, I’ve had enough with this administration’s policies. I was fed up and fired up.
I am even more so in the wake of the most moving gathering I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of.
At one point, some of the people attending the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “counter rally,” coined “Reclaiming King,” stopped me. I guess they must have been judging me by the color of my skin not the content of my character, because they asked if I was going to come join them.
“No, I won’t be there,” I told them. “Why?” one of them asked with a grimace on his face. I looked at him and said, “I want to be where the Lord is and the Lord is in this place.”
One of the older black women in the group asked me if I felt like I was “selling out” for being one of the “tokens” in the Beck rally crowd?
I laughed and said “Ma’am, Al Sharpton is a pretender. He is going to tell you to pretend that the color of your skin matters. He is going to ask you to ignore the now overwhelming proof that 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, blacks are now destroying each other faster than the KKK could have dreamed.”
As I walked away, the group stood frozen, not knowing how to reply.
Later, as Sharpton preached a divisive message void of actual solutions on how to “close the education and economic gap” in the “black community,” Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, invoked the spirit of her slain uncle proclaiming, “I too have a dream, that white privilege will become human privilege and that people of every ethnic blend will receive everyone as brothers and sisters in the love of God.”
Her comments on restoring the “foundation of the family” in America were met, not with boos, but with a thunderous applause.
(What bigots those white folks! Having the audacity to cheer Dr. King’s niece like that. Racists the whole lot of them!)
I was probably the only 24-year old black college student in the crowd. It’s hard to know, because we had over 300,000 people there. But that didn’t matter to me. As we all stood hand-in-hand, American shoulder to American shoulder, our myriad faces streaked with tears as we sang “Amazing Grace.” It was a moment I will be proud to tell my grandkids about one day.
What that moment taught me is this: Something profound is happening in America that runs far deeper than politics. The ground is shifting, and it’s in freedom’s direction.
As a nation at war, standing in division and debt, Beck challenged the crowd to return to God.
The message I took away is that we cannot continue to pick at the scab of America’s past but must become the balm that heals it. That’s the way forward—arm in arm, moving together, toward a better future.
Standing in a crowd that stretched from the Washington Monument to Lincoln Memorial what happened on 8/28 was the most inspirational thing I had ever experienced.
Standing there, unhyphenated and united, this black man has never felt more free in his life.
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