I knew if I ever got to be an adult, I wanted to do something to bring black and white worlds together

November 24, 2016
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I knew if I ever got to be an adult, I wanted to do something to bring black and white worlds together

I knew if I ever got to be an adult, I wanted to do something to bring black and white worlds together

“I grew up during the era of the Civil Rights Movement but I was a kid and couldn’t do anything about it. There were separate water fountains and separate schools but our school books bothered me. They marked our race in the books that were handed down from the white kids.  I wanted to go the A&W with the car hop but we couldn’t, because they didn’t allow black people. It was hard to be denied for being different. I grew up knowing if you were black, you were less thin and you not as important and you had to know your place.  My family and church drilled it in my head that I was somebody and had greatness in me.  It got me when the three black girls were bombed in Birmingham because they were my age. I became afraid and started wondering when they were coming for me. My parents had to tell me where to go and what to do to keep me safe.  I knew if I ever got to be an adult, I wanted to do something to bring black and white worlds together.”
“I was the keynote speaker at a Martin Luther King event in Fairhope and while I was talking about my feelings as a child, I realized I wasn’t living the dream he was talking about it. I was preaching to myself. I went back to my church, Macedonia Baptist, and told my pastor I needed to leave because God was calling me away. I was walking to work and looked up and saw the steeple at First Baptist Church and God said that was my new home. I laughed because I knew God must be fooling because 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week. The Sunday I joined, I was praying in my spirit, this is not my will and not what I want to do but I will be obedient to Your plan. I went into the lobby and the two men who welcomed me were my angels who. A feeling of peace came over me and I knew I was home and I would be OK. At the invitation, Reverand Henry whispered, ‘Ms. Cheney, you are a brave woman because we don’t have anyone here who looks like you.’ I told him I wasn’t brave, I was obedient. I joined the church and it hasn’t been easy. Some people are cruel and say things within earshot but I laugh because I have on the full armor God and this is where I am supposed to be.”
“I am between both worlds and know what Caucasians say and what African Americans say and sometimes it isn’t pleasant. I want to see the walls broken down that are holding us from each other. It needs to be authentic and real. At 5 a.m. for over two year years I stood outside the mayor and city council offices and the police station and pray to change our thinking and bind us together. I refuse to have the next generation experience what I experienced. We tell our children when they grow up to leave Fairhope because this city has no place for you. I have to fight for what is right and what the city should already be doing for the black community, even sidewalks and safe crossings for our children to get to school. That angers me because we are out of sight, out of mind. Election year everyone comes around looking for votes. I have to hold their feet to the fire.”
“The new mayor is helping to start a conversation to bridge the gap. We need to be doing the work of the church. Do you think God is coming back for a segregated to church?  We are supposed to help each other. I see some good things changing for all of us. This is humanity. Someone had to be the one to step out and I was someone with a big mouth and God moved me to step out.”

6 comments on “I knew if I ever got to be an adult, I wanted to do something to bring black and white worlds together”

  1. Ronald Martin says:

    Great piece. Enjoy your work

  2. Cindy says:

    I love this and what you all are doing at Sistes Unite.

  3. Alison says:

    So wonderful! So thankful!

  4. Maggie Mosteller says:

    I am with you Valary. God Bless you sweet lady,

  5. Maggie Mosteller says:

    God Bless you Valary. I am with you!

  6. Jean Mitchell says:

    Valerie, I love seeing you at ‘our’ church. I love your bright, happy spirit and every hug you give me. Thank you for the article; thank you for your obedience. I will join you in praying for our great city and our great people–that we may all see each other through God’s eyes.

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