Amazing Grace

Larry Salley, our ArtsWestchester board member since 2004, not surprisingly was trying to get a plane ticket to Charleston, South Carolina when we sat down to lunch one Friday. While we perused the menu, Larry paused to explain that his cousins were elders in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the scene of the unspeakable massacre of nine African Americans and the church where Larry’s parents were married in 1928. Larry, a former Westchester County Transportation Commissioner, is engaged in many community activities including the African American Men of Westchester and the White Plains Housing Authority. I knew Larry grew up in Brooklyn, but I did not realize his roots were in South Carolina. He told me that his father, after fighting for his country in World War II,  couldn’t abide going back to the south and the indignities of sitting in the back of the bus. Family was only part of the reason Larry was going to Charleston. It was a matter of conscience. True there had been many senseless random shootings of innocent people in recent years…Newtown, Columbine, a movie theater in Aurora.This one however was different in that the shooter was taking revenge on a specific group of people for no reason other than the color of their skin. Back from Charleston, Larry was astonished “The human spirit was something to behold…truly an amazing grace.” Also he was incredulous. “Didn’t we think things would change when four little girls lost their lives in the burning of churches in Birmingham in 1963?” “How could a 21-year old learn so much hate at such a young age?” Yet, he was “cautiously optimistic. With the recent Supreme Court decisions, there is hope that in time, equality and social progress can be achieved.”

Tags: , ,