It was the summer of 1995 and someone was burning down black churches across the south. Me and a couple of buddies loaded up and drove deep into rural Alabama to find one of these churches and offer to help. We found the Rising Star Baptist Church in Greensboro, Alabama. There was nothing but a foundation and the charred husk of an old one room church. We walked to the nearest house and met an elderly woman who was a life-long member of the church. She invited us in and over a glass of tea we answered her questions until she overcame her bewildered state and understood that we were not with any group, we were just us. She was skeptical, of our intentions or our ability to do anything to help, I’m not sure. She sent us to the local catfish farm to ask around for the pastor, who wasn’t there.
We found him later that day and promised him we would return to Tallahassee and find a way to raise some money to rebuild the church.
This began my career in non-profit community service.
With the help of the Tallahassee Rock Gym, folk artist Mary Proctor, Joe’s Bike Shop, Quarter Moon Import Shop, local bands Felt and Sidney, 7 other churches, 2 synagogues, and a mosque we produced our first benefit show. I think we raised $1,500 which was matched by the congregation of the First Missionary Baptist Church on the corner of MLK and Tennessee Street. It wasn’t enough to build a church, but it was something, and we had done it all on our own initiative.
I know a hell of a lot more than I did then, and I’m looking for another Rising Star.
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust,