I Love to Tell the Story by Babbie Mason
Babbie Mason is a Dove Award-winning and Grammy nominated gospel singer, songwriter, author, creator of the Embrace: A Worship Event for Women ministry, professor of songwriting at Atlanta Christian College and Lee University, and a television talk-show host. Recently she released her second book, Embraced by God: Celebrating Who and Whose You Are.
In this post she shares from her experience growing up as an African American girl, and the importance of telling your story, even when it’s a difficult one to share.
I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY
By Babbie Mason
During the month of February, as we pay particular attention to the contribution of African American people and their great accomplishments, I’m reminded once again of the importance of telling our story as Black people. I grew up near Detroit, Mich., and came of age during the volatile race riots and protests of the 1960s. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in the deep segregated South, and he remembers firsthand drinking from the “colored” water fountain and not being able to try on clothes in the department store downtown. We watch the documentaries that are shown on television, particularly at this time of year, and afterwards we are always compelled to tell our own stories. I want to share a little bit of my story in hopes that it will inspire you to tell your own.
Although I was very young during the decade of the 1960s, I remember very well the events that not only helped to define us as a people, those events defined us as a nation. As an elementary school student, I processed the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and so many others who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement. I recall from time to time my mother’s painful reaction to the brutal murder of Emmett Till in 1955 and the four little girls who lost their lives in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963.
I even know personally, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of human cruelty. I was a junior at a Christian liberal arts college in southern Michigan, not far from home. As the only Black member of my college choir, I remember when we were on choir tour in the mid ’70s. We performed in a white church in Atlanta, Ga., one evening. After the concert we spent the night in the homes of church members who served as our hosts. My roommate, a sweet white girl named Suzie, and I went to the home of our hosts, an elderly white couple. As we were getting ready for bed, Suzie came to me and revealed that she had just been asked if she minded sleeping in the same bed with a “(n-word) gal.” After that, I found myself in a pit of hurt and confusion. How could people be like that? How could people say they love God yet want nothing to do with me? Jesus had to meet me in the place where I was. I was deeply hurt, fighting mad, and greatly shocked and disappointed. Jesus had to rescue me before my heart became bitter and filled with indifference. In desperation, I had to pray for deliverance before I became just like those who had wronged me. I have long since forgiven those people, but I have to be honest with you. I bear a deep scar from being on the receiving end of hatred and ignorance, and sometimes, even now, I have to fight back tears. However, as I look back on that situation now, I can see the hand of God. This has not made me bitter. It has made me better. That situation and others like it have caused me to sing with a deeper conviction, minister with a greater passion, and empathize with the lost, the hurting, and the next generation.
So, what’s your story? No doubt, it is decorated with colorful details or mingled with profound pain. But tell it anyhow. Tell your children and grandchildren the beautiful and even painful details of your life’s journey. Remind them again and again of how you picked cotton under the heat of the Georgia sun. Tell about the struggles on your job in the factory during the Industrial Revolution and how you left places like Clarksdale, Miss., and ended up in places like Fort Wayne, Ind., on your quest for a better life. Describe the wonderful smells that came from Big Mama’s kitchen, as she stood on her feet for hours to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner, then, how later on that evening, she had to rub her arthritic hands with liniment oil, the smell of which would consume every room in her warm and loving home. Sing the old hymns you learned as a child growing up in church. Talk about your education or the lack of it, the times of plenty and the times when you were left wanting. Then tell how over it all, through it all, above it all, and because of it all, you are still here as a witness to God’s amazing faithfulness. Tell your story, my friend. Because, if you don’t tell your story – it won’t get told.