The day really got started with lunch at the Prime Smokehouse with a wonderful friend. I LOVE the Smokehouse! (and I love this friend) There is a Prime Rib sandwich on the menu just now and it is delicious. I LOVE the food at the Smokehouse, the people who own and run it, the customers at all the table who never mind if you ask them what they ordered. I noticed a young couple eyeing our plates so I held mine up so they could see. Only smiles were exchanged, but this is the Smokehouse way. It’s an important historical corner where the restaurant resides in downtown Rocky Mount, where locals and people are coming from someplace else because of the restaurants spreading reputation; it represents the revitalization dream as far as I’m concerned.
After lunch, there was enough time before a meeting downtown to spend in my friend’s beautiful garden. We marveled over spring having its way again. There are brand new ferns that have pushed their way into new life and tiny soft green leaves miraculously emerging. The West Haven Historic District is awash with stunning dogwoods and azaleas that make life feel brand new again. Before leaving I was allowed a peek at my friend’s ‘babies.’ She’s into seeds this year and there are trays sprouting promising things, which like any good parent she monitors on a daily progress.
It was time to head to the first of a series of meetings that The Rocky Mount Human Relations Commission was hosting. A doctor friend once told me that the medical profession doesn’t know why attitude is so important when it comes to healing, they only know that it is. When it comes to improving race relations in Rocky Mount, attitude is equally important. I went with concern in my heart because the newspaper made it sound like the future of the Confederate monument was all this meeting about. I left the meeting two hours later with a sense of peace I haven’t had over “things” in a long time. I had spent this time in the company of an unassuming, but charming older women…I notice age more now and how active and focused a woman like this is. Dr. Bertha Boykin Todd, a retired educator, community advocate and a leader in reconciliation, among other leadership roles, stood in the council chambers and told a story that took place in Willmington, NC because one of her premises is you must know your history.
It is true that in my judgment, some of the very people who should have been at the meeting to hear Dr. Todd great message weren’t there. Those in attendance must have left as I did, encouraged, hopeful, inspired by Dr. Todd’s remarks. As the Human Relations Commission goes forward with their important work, they are armed with some principles to guide them. Moving Forward Together Goals, remembering that this is an evolutionary process, how important it is to respect one another’s life experiences on things like the monument. Judging people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. She encouraged people involved in these conversations to know one another and what their own prejudices are before expecting to get very far down the road of reconciliation. If someone is coming to our issues with retribution or retaliation in their hearts, they need not get involved. In Willmington, Dr. Todd has been in the forefront of matching black accomplishments with signage etc. alongside the white stories. With a quiet grace built upon the experience of her life’s work, prayer is Dr. Todd’s answer to moving forward together. Her lecture was a great place to begin this new attempt at what I call……Come, let us reason together!