“Does the walker choose the path, or the path the walker.” Garth Nix
On Sunday morning, July 14th, 2019 part of my art crew gathered at Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago, for a friend’s birthday breakfast. I was over thirty minutes late due to waiting on the bus which I still cancelled out for the Blue line. Either way, it was working out. A pulled-up chair to our outside table suited me just fine. As we sat there talking art and philosophy, there was a slight pause in the hum of conversation. Someone at the table blurted out “Is that Jesse Jackson?” I looked over immediately and yes, lowering himself into a seated position, was Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. himself, in living color. Dressed in Black, with the intensity somewhat softened in his eyes, he seemed oblivious to the whispers around him. I sat there, a bit stunned. Not because he was there at the table next to us, in such a casual manner. Men like Jesse never walk lightly into a space. They bring in their wake, the the span of history that one has come to associate with them. First in Black and white film clips seen during grade schools years, and peppered headlines across the span of years beyond a lifetime. They walk tall because the soles of their feet have picked up miles of clay from the journey, pressed solid into bricks formed into a citadel of hope, promise, and historical precedent.
“Jahni, are you ok?” Someone asked. I must have gone off into an alternative space because the voice pulled me back from somewhere beyond there. My response was,
“Yeah, just let me process this a minute.”
What they didn’t know was that at the end of June, I’d had a dream in which I was in a large edifice with pews so I could only assume it was a church. A man had just walked away from me. Though I only remember him in shadow form, I believe we must have had a conversation. Immediately an elder woman walked up to me, her face pleasant, wide-eyed, honest and make-up free, like the Seventh-Day Adventists deaconesses that I recall from my childhood. She leaned toward me and said in a soft voice, “That was Dr. Abernathy.” At that moment I’d awakened. The sun had not yet risen. Downtown Chicago was still snoring. I grabbed my phone, pecked in Dr. Abernathy in notes, rolled over, and went back to dreamland. When morning came, the remembrance of the dream came heavy with it. I phoned a friend down south with family ties to Oakwood (Seventh-Day Adventists…the woman with the soft voice) and shared the dream with her. A few minutes later she sent me a link to an article, an extended obituary, of a Dr. Earl Walter Moore who had just passed a year before in June of 2018. His funeral had been held at my childhood church home. In his obituary, it stated that he had marched and protested with Civil rights giants, Martin L. King, Andrew Young, Joseph Lowery, Jesse Jackson, and yes, the only Dr. Abernathy, I know of… Ralph. Dr. Moore was also the mentor of my former spiritual father, Robert Leslie Willis (rest in power).
That’s why this moment at the breakfast table was pregnant with intrigue. The familiar image that stood out in my head from historical photos was Dr. Abernathy on one side, Jesses Jackson on the other, and Dr. King between the two. Dr. Abernathy from the dream, now Jesse Jackson in the flesh, at the next table. ” Let’s get a photo with him”, one of my comrades gushed. Being fairly known and knowing how precious moments of peace are important, I wasn’t too keen on interrupting Reverend Jackson’s breakfast. Before I could protest, one of my crew went over and the next thing I knew, Jesse Jackson was at our table for a photo. He shared information about Rainbow Push Coalition’s supply drive for the border situation. None of us caught an address or time.
About an hour or so later, back in my room, I decided to take a nap. Sleep couldn’t get in past my thoughts. I remembered Jesse Jackson saying something about a Rainbow push event. I searched for the information and found where he was speaking at a church on the west side at noon. It was already just past noon. I wasn’t sure I could get there in time. The knawing in my spirit persisted. I logged in the address, and headed for the subway. As soon as I reached the terminal, perfect timing. The train pulled up and I hopped on, headed in the right direction.
To be continued…