As I stare at the portrait of Mr. Jesse Cole, I cannot help but think that the members of the First Baptist Church Nassau Street Descendant Community and I would like to spend a few minutes with him. We want to hear what compelled him to donate land and a building to free and enslaved African Americans here in Williamsburg to gather and worship. As we struggle in the 21st century with the unresolved and difficult conversation on race in Virginia, and in the country, we feel that he could perhaps help us to understand a lot by sharing the reason for his decision. It had to be an unpopular and even dangerous position to take centuries ago. What could it have been? Was it his faith in a God that loves us all? We need just a few minutes with you Mr. Cole.
I was recently reminded of a poem that I studied in the 7th grade. A new and dear friend read the poem to me and Pastor Davis on the way to an interview during Black History Month. It is a very powerful reminder of what I felt in 1967, and here we are in 2018 and the words are just as powerful. Here are a few of the lines, but please search for it on the internet and sit quietly and read "Let America Be America Again", a poem written in 1935 by American poet Langston Hughes. I am embarrassed that, at this time the words still ring true to me.