I have no doubt that Rev. Marvin McMickle used his virtual sermon Sunday morning to eulogize U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, two titans from the Civil Rights Movement.
McMickle reminded the congregation that Lewis and Vivian, who both died more than a week ago, had, on separate occasions, stood in the pulpit at Antioch Baptist Church and spoke about how Black people must remain steadfast if they are to overcome racism.
Both men could reprise those sermons today.
They couldn’t, so McMickle did.
To his virtual congregation, McMickle called the deaths of Lewis and Vivian, and the Black Lives Matter protests across the United States reminders that we can’t sit on the sidelines and rely on America to do right by us, its noble, democratic principles be damned.
He said Blacks can never overcome racism if they refuse to vote, which they did in November 2016. Their choice to do so led to Donald Trump.
Blame whites if we dare, but Blacks need to point fingers at ourselves, our friends, our brothers and our sisters too. They declined to support Hillary Clinton, a candidate who didn’t energize Blacks as Barack Obama did.
Another Obama might not be on the horizons; another four years of Trump are. Has he done anything to help the walls of racist America come tumbling down?
I won’t answer that question. For if I have to, I know I’ll be answering it for people who never bothered to witness the struggles of Blacks, who chose not to look racism in its eyes or who ignored the bigotry, misogyny of candidate Trump. He’s now returned the republic the 1950s.
McMickle’s salute to Lewis and Vivian spoke about how these men risked their lives so Black folks could vote. Both were top lieutenants under Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the fight for equal rights, and Lewis and Vivian continued to wage those fights till their deaths.
They were in the arena, which is where all of us must go if we hope to overcome what Trump — and people like him — has done to our America.
Throughout his sermon, McMickle hammered away at that point, using the words of Teddy Roosevelt to illustrate it:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I used Roosevelt’s same words once to highlight an article I was writing, though not as eloquently, as poignantly as McMickle did. The reverend got it right: We shall never overcome if we don’t fight like Lewis and Vivian.