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What the L?

edmund pettus bridge Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma (photo: Tony Webster/flickr)

Yesterday I had just one appointment. To the guy who’s typically booked every 45 minutes for 9-10 hours a day, five days a week, it was a miracle!

I spent Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, meeting with the leadership of Simmons College, a historically black college whose 153-year story reads like modern Israel’s.

On the heels of the Civil War, Kentucky’s Convention of Colored Baptist Churches chartered Simmons College; it was Kentucky’s first post-secondary school for its “Colored” citizens. After years of significant growth, during the Great Depression the college fell on hard times. By 1935, Simmons had lost its campus to foreclosure. But – like Israel – God made a way for Simmons to come home. In 1995, 60 years after losing its home, Simmons returned to its original campus and received long-overdue recognition as an HBCU (Historically Black College or University).

Oh! What I haven’t told you is that my visit to Simmons came just as Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) transitioned to Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day), which made the parallel between Simmons’ story and modern Israel’s even more vivid. African Americans and Jews have much in common; for years they fought and marched side-by-side. Sadly, the bridge that united them during the civil rights era is badly in need of rebuilding.  

I was on campus at the invitation of Dr. Sam Tolbert, president of the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA). NBCA is the successor to the denomination that founded Simmons. We were meeting to discuss how The Fellowship, NBCA, and Simmons could work together to deepen the bonds between the Black Christian community and Israel, and rebuild the ties between African Americans and American Jews. While the discussion was fruitful, exciting and expansive (and will continue in a few weeks when Simmons’ president, Dr. Kevin Cosby, comes to Chicago), the real appointment preceded the scheduled meeting.

Ever notice how often what seems serendipitous is the God-moment? That is just what happened in Louisville.

We were early, so Dr. Tolbert and I were invited to sit in on a town hall meeting with the student body and faculty. In that meeting, Dr. Cosby laid out his vision for Simmons and his dream of how Simmons would – not could – be the economic engine to transform its neighborhood and Louisville (the 11th poorest city in America). He did it in true Baptist pastor style – just 7 words that all began with the same letter.

While President Cosby used these seven words to describe what Simmons is and will become, his words spoke to me too. The 7-Ls could be, and should be, goals for families, for companies, for charities, for me.

Here’s my rewrite of Dr. Cosby’s 7 words which I’ve retitled “What the L?” 

Always be LEARNING– no one knows it all

Encourage LAUGHTER – be a person people want to be around

Create a LOVING supportive environment

Find ways to LINK with others

Provide LODGING – be a home for new ideas

LIVE and grow every day – strive to be the best you that you can be

Be LEAVEN so that others rise with you

I’d add an 8th – always be LISTENING; listening for messages and wisdom that speak to your heart

Yesterday wasn’t just a day with only one appointment; it was a day with a Divine appointment. And that truly is a miracle.


-    George W. Mamo is the Global COO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

Tags: Inspiration

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