Dark Yesterdays, Bright Tomorrows
Way back in the 1960’s, when I was on the threshold of my manhood, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached a sermon that was entitled the “Drum Major Instinct.” Essentially, the reverend zoned in on mankind’s universal desire to be out front in a gala parade, proudly twirling a baton. After citing biblical disciples, James and John, indicating that they beseeched Jesus Christ to pre-assign them seats on His left and right extremes – “when” the Christ ascended to His “worldly” throne, Dr King went on to state that nations, themselves, are obsessed with elitist and superior status. Furthermore, King deemed the United States “the supreme culprit,” a description that angered the then powers-that-be.
Although the scriptural brother-pair, James and John, wrongly believed Jesus would establish His kingdom on earth, they “instinctively” implored Jesus to grant them special favor, which was to officially install them as His number 1 and number 2 counselors. And arrogance notwithstanding, the two brothers were not shame-faced because, after all, they asked FIRST.
Now, according to Rev. King’s message, coinciding with biblical commentary, Jesus did not condemn or become angry with the apostle duo. He didn’t brand them absurd or presumptuous. He didn’t ask, “Who are you to be awarded such a stellar and high position?” Instead, Christ came forth with a response that was, both, wise and uplifting. Jesus calmly said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Oh, I see. You want to be great? You want to be significant? You want to be first? Well – you ought to be. To be a true servant of the Father, you MUST be. Therefore, resolve yourselves to be first in charity, first in compassion, first in love, first in service to others – and all the other shallow things do not matter. If you want to be great – wonderful! If you want to be significant – wonderful! If you want to be first – wonderful! But realize that he who is greatest amongst you – is he who serves others, his fellow man. And in that context – everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”
To say that I was deeply moved and impressed by Rev. Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon is a vast understatement. It immediately resonated with me and filled , both, my heart and mind with haunting wonder. And as pompous as it might sound, from that moment forward, I tried to embrace and emulate the prototype being that Jesus Christ so elegantly described to James and John in their pursuit for prominence and greatness.
Admittedly, I have long aspired to mirror that select individual Jesus spoke of but, not so surprisingly, I have occasionally fallen short. Still, I TRY. Regardless though, I have always been intrigued with the individual cited by Jesus. Without being a man of the cloth (a minister or priest), or a judgemental religious fanatic, or an out-and-out goody-two-shoes, I wondered what that person would look like. How committed would he (or she) be to being benevolent and caring? Where did he (or she) come from? What trials and tribulations did he (or she) endure, alternately shaping his (or her) controversial mind-set? And, most importantly, what would be the actions and reactions of people who associate with such a figure?
Dark Yesterdays, Bright Tomorrows
With all of the foregoing questions, swirling in my mind, I felt compelled to pen “Dark Yesterdays – Bright Tomorrows,” a book I delighted in writing and pursuing. I purposely made my main protagonist a 23 year old Black man (Tyrone Lattimore) and I ideally selected Fort Sam Houston, Texas as my primary setting – because, in my personal opinion, the military is America’s chief melting pot and I was intent upon touching on the racial turmoil and disconnect that has long plagued America. As flowery as it sounds, I thoroughly believe that, in spite of lurking and age-old evils, love still conquers all! But, in all probability, that’s my inner spirit speaking out. After all the years, it still resonates In me.
Lionel B. Harris
Author of “Dark Yesterdays – Bright Tomorrows”