|Bethel Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.|
Photo from Wikipedia
To Colonel Stone Johnson
(and all who fight for justice, freedom, and peace)
By Charles Kinnaird
I heard he once picked up a smoking bomb
And threw it off the steps of Bethel Baptist Church.
Why did he take the risk?
It was not to save bricks and mortar
That he risked his own safety.
Bricks and mortar are easily replaced.
It was not in defense of faith.
Faith has already survived much harsher assaults.
Was it to save a life?
I don't know that anyone was in the building.
What he did do was to prevent
Yet one more insult
Against a downtrodden people.
He caused there to be one less act of degradation.
It was to say,
"This is one act of hatred
That will end in the street
Rather than on someone's doorstep."
It was an act of faith
That the chain of hatred can be broken;
That the cycle of violence can stop.
It was a sign of hope
That there will be other days
When someone will say,
There will be no violence today."
Note: I met Mr. Johnson a few years ago at a dinner in his honor. Fred Shuttlesworth was the keynote speaker and I had been invited to read my poem. I presented Mr. Johnson with a copy of my poem. The curator for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute requested a copy to be placed in the archives there.