Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A time to commemorate heritage and sacrifices

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published February 19, 2015  | En Español

I have to admit that I am not very much of a movie devotee, and that reality is a great disappointment for at least one of my younger priests who himself is drawn to the cinema like a moth to a flame. He once told me that he was planning on getting up to see a new film that was being released with a 3 a.m. screening time. I looked at him like he was crazy. But for some movie aficionados, the sacrifice of rising at such an ungodly hour is a small price to pay for being among the first to see a new film’s release.

The last movie that I saw was “42” two years ago. I was the guest of an Atlanta businessman whose firm hosted a premier showing of this autobiographical motion picture story of Jackie Robinson. It was a movie that captured in Hollywood fashion a pivotal moment in American society—the breaking of the color barrier in America’s pastime, baseball.

What Jackie Robinson did on the baseball diamond, what the Tuskegee Airmen did during the Second World War, what Rosa Parks, Dr. King and Ralph Abernathy did during the Civil Rights era and countless thousands of others did in support of that pivotal movement are legacy moments for all of us to consider during Black History Month—especially here in Atlanta a city so duly identified with the triumphs and the sorrows of that era.

There are a number of other contemporary movies that have taken up the task of attempting to capture the heroic actions and personalities of the foot soldiers of the march for freedom and justice—some with more accuracy and success than others. While those films may be quite entertaining, the heritage and sacrifices that they attempt to portray on the silver screen will always fall short of the true heroism of those whose bravery laid the foundation for civil rights in this nation. Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us to look back and call to mind that grand heritage of faith and the relentless pursuit of justice of countless thousands of people—from all races—that make this nation a much better community. Sadly, we all know that these struggles are not yet complete. And too many events during the past year confirm that there is still so much work to be done on all of our parts.

None of us may think of ourselves as being very heroic or newsworthy but usually more just observers of history rather than its protagonists. Nonetheless this week, I was reminded by a third-grader from the Cathedral parish that I too had a role to play—at least in her world. As part of her school observance of Black History Month, she was asked to prepare a project on “a famous and/or influential African American,” and Bridget chose me! I so look forward to being interviewed by this young lady because she represents the bright future of our nation and I believe a vitally important part of the heritage of racial harmony that those who protested, staged sit-ins, endured physical violence and imprisonment to achieve justice and dignity left in their wake.

Bridget is far too young, and probably so too are her parents, to remember personally the violence that often accompanied those struggles. However, she is a very important link to our future, and I am honored to be able to encourage and support her interest and that of her other classmates who are also preparing projects for Black History Month.

Bridget just made her First Holy Communion last year, and she is already actively engaged in activities with the Cathedral parish family along with her own personal family. Black History Month, therefore, is not just about looking back at the events of yesterday, but also looking forward toward tomorrow, and Bridget will help me and her family to take hope in a tomorrow that she will lead along with her classmates and friends.