On Purpose Still…


Within a minute I was aboard the green line weaving through Chicago going to find the Church where Rev. Jesse Jackson was to speak. By the time I arrived at the church, there was no doubt that it was the right place. About a dozen or so television news vans lined the area across from the Hispanic church. I went in. The cool calm space was inviting. I could hear people talking and made my way toward the voices. From the back of the sanctuary, I could see Rev. Jesse Jackson up front. An arch of camera’s surrounded him as he was closing his address. At least I got a chance to hear a little bit. Even though I was late, I walked in and took a seat on a pew. Less than five minutes later, we were standing again as he walked down the center aisle shaking hands as he came. When he got to me, he reached past my outstretched hand and gave me a fatherly hug with the words.

“Good to see you again, brother.”

He actually remembered. I was a bit more than surprised since I’m sure he sees so many people on any given day. Either way, I fell in behind him and we filed out of the sanctuary. Our interaction apparently pushed people to the conclusion that we were together. They began to ask me questions to which I’m honored to say, I had answers. Some inquired as to whether they could photograph Rev. Jackson. “Sure, I said.” Not really knowing what else to say. Outside we spoke again briefly and took a photo together before he was whisked into a waiting black SUV. Not before I heard one of his assistants say something about an event as the headquarters.

On my way back, I stopped in China Town and purchased a money plant. I hopped on the train with my little tree and headed back uptown. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this part of the journey had more to offer. At the next stop I changed trains and headed south toward the University of Chicago. Reaching the area, I walked a block or two and came to what I thought was the building that housed The Rainbow Coalition. A handsome elderly couple dressed in black and white grand church attire walked by me on the side walk across the street. The man spoke kindly. I returned the gesture with a nod. They looked really good. I knocked on the door a few times to no answer. I thought this was it. Finally I decided that maybe that part of the journey was over. I walked to the end of the sidewalk, headed toward the bus stop. The elder woman, still on the sidewalk across the street for some reason, called out to me.

“There’s somebody at the door, baby.” in that sweet grandmother voice.

I looked back and sure enough, inside the glass reflected the surrounding buildings, I could see the moving form of a man peering out. I quickly retuned to the door. He opened it as I approached. I told him that I’d heard about a meeting or event. He told me that they were taking donations for the situation at the border. I told him I wanted to make a donation. “Follow me.” He said. We entered a long hallway filled with black and white photos of all sizes. Each turn of the spaces had even more images of the movement suspended in time. I felt like I was walking through the pages of a Civil Rights coffee table book. Finally we walked into a large office. Behind a desk to my left sat Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson. He looked up and gave me a slight smile. For the next few hours he invested time and energy in my questions and musings. We talked about life before, during, and after the movement. He eventually signed and handed me three photos. One with he and a smiling Dr. Martin Luther King, one with he and the stately Nelson Mandela, and one with him being embraced by the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. He shared things that it only seemed a relative might share. He even had me answering his cell phone. In all the photos had I had seen plastered over the span of time, none of them had ever hinted that the Reverend Jesse Jackson had a comedic streak. At one point he nodded to my money plant and joked about me being bold enough to travel publicly in Chicago with a live weed plant. It was all a surreal experience. I knew I had to leave soon. In fact I should have left hours ago. I was supposed to be at the Southside Community Art Center at an event for artist, Eda Wade. I bid my farewells and walked with the gentleman back through the maze. My head and heart were filled with memories and a heaping helping of viable information. As we went though a large open room, I caught a glimpse of a life-size standup photo that flared up a memory. In the picture was Dr. Martin Luther King flanked by Jesse Jackson and Dr. Ralph Abernathy. I couldn’t speak, the wheels in my head spinning to a hum. What did this all mean? I needed to go. “Hey, check out these over here, li’l brother.” The man ushering me out, said. Quickly checking the time on my phone, I followed him to the corner, really needing to go. “Just check these out before you go.” He added. I stood for a few minutes and got lost in images I’d never seen before.

“Jahni.” a familiar voice called out from across the room, pulling me from my thought space. “Let’s take this photo.” I turned to see Rev. Jackson coming down a flight of stairs surrounded by his entourage. He was smiling and motioning for me to come over. “Right here,” he said as we positioned in front of the life sized iconic image of himself, Dr. King, and Dr. Abernathy. I didn’t have adequate words for the moment then…and I don’t have any now. The way all of this connected to my dream was orchestrated to call coincidental. Rev. Jackson is the last one of the men in the photo left walking on this plane. He invested time in me. Ralph Abernathy shared something with me in the dream. And there I stood. Here I stand. All I can say is that I know it was all on purpose. People invest in us for a reason. There are no happenstances. All the words and things planted in us by others are little guiding lights to our place of practice. Those reasons are not always clear in the beginning but, like connect the dots, if we trust the process, they will eventually take on the form of what we need to come into our purpose.

On Purpose

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