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By: Dr. Thomas Jackson
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
South Side (Jeremiah 1:5)
I was the 8th and last child born, as some would say, out of season! Ophelia my older sister was the “last child,” or so they thought, for 12 years! Then I came, the last and fourth son of Daisy, who raised me single handedly with occasional help from my older sisters. My father was not a part of my life till I sought him out later in my adult years and put a closure to years of questions and bitterness.
The rough side of Chicago is what I called home, growing up on welfare, but this fact did not stop my young mind and heart from dreaming and aspiring. From an early age I showed potential to the makings of a professional basketball player and my coaches drove me to passionate depths for this sport. This passion paid off in the form of a scholarship to one of the best private colleges in the state of Iowa.
Black and White (1 Samuel 16:7)
Prior to my college life, my interaction with the white population was minimal, and only out of necessity. I had read little on the slavery and subjugation of the black population, so my opinions and values were based on what was handed down to me by my people. The college that sponsored me was an all white school with only three black enrollments prior to my enrollment. Here I was again seemingly out of place, I say seemingly, because it would be realized later that it was part of a plan.
As is often the case, young people are formidable forces when energies are channeled right, and very destructive when the opposite is true. While attending this college, I began to take note of some obvious disturbing observations. This led me to a search that would have been disastrous had not intervention stepped in. My college years were years of an intense internal struggle. I was driven by a desire to excel, not I alone, but with my black kindred. Marxism, Socialism, Zaoism, Taoism, Confucianism, Black Panther(ism), Pan-Africanism and most every other ism began to run my life.
At about this time, racial tension was rife in the air and my passions were right there with it. I had two driving passions: 1.) to make it ‘big’ in professional basketball and 2.) to free the black population from the stigma that had followed it for hundreds of years. I saw issues through “black and white” glasses, black being right and white being wrong.
It begs to be mentioned that Christianity was coupled right along with the ills of the white man’s world. I saw it (Christianity) as a tool to subjugate and oppress the black man, conclusions I drew after reading writers who perpetuated this theorem.
Scouts were out as usual looking for draftees and the NBA was not the only agency looking. The Vietnam War was brooding in the horizon and some young patriots were needed. The former I gladly anticipated but the army was not a part of my plans at that time. I was a young man with hot blood flowing through my arteries, ready to conquer it all. My health was good apart from an irritating annoyance of some painful knees I had had from the age of 17. The pains intensified and the doctors might as well have given me a death sentence when they told me that I was suffering from the number one crippling disease in America –arthritis! They also told me that there was no known cure. However devastating that unwelcome news was, I knew of one thing. I was determined to beat the pain, so I did all that I could to control the pain. I even used various nonprescription drugs so that I could play. The condition was so debilitating that I received the highest rejection from the army— four F! Through the pain and the struggle, I watched as one by one, my dreams faded away to a land beyond my reach! With my pro basketball career prematurely halted, I slipped into a depression for a time.
Absent God (Proverbs 22:6)
A mother’s words and pleadings may appear forgotten for a season but they have a way of showing up when needed the most. Raised in a Baptist home, my mother often talked about God and His power. All along, I actually believed that He existed but He was not interested in the plight of black people. I picked up an old Bible and begun to thumb through it. What began as a casual perusal led to some life changing choices. Hope revived and I started back on my other dream of elevating my down trodden people, blacks. I sought to do this by establishing centers that would lift the black man socially, mentally and economically to a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Once again my vision was black, for blacks, by blacks.
The word of God has power to change a person. As I continued to study it for answers to life’s problems, I surprisingly found out that man’s health questions have their answers in the same book! I was in for a spiritual as well as a physical journey. My battle with arthritis was about to find its answers - physical as well as spiritual arthritis, the calcification of the heart and joints.
Part 2 of this wonderful testimony will be featured in our next newsletter.
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