On this weekend observing the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I love to hear Dr. King's speech one more time. He was not only one of America's great heroes, he was certainly one of our finest orators. All of this talk about King's dream has me thinking about how my life has been touched by African Americans.
Things took a big step forward in the 1970s when I met an itinerant black preacher named Cy Young. He was a guest on my radio talk show and his shtick was MLK speeches. He had memorized almost all of them, and his recitation was amazing. He was a big black man with a big deep voice and his delivery was mesmerizing. That was really the first time I had actually listened to the I HAVE A DREAM speech. And it touched me forever. Cy and I became very close friends. We did programs together. I got him involved in ministry with HIS MEN, both in churches and in prisons. Cy died from injuries suffered when he was struck by a car. But his impact on my life was profound.
Before he died, he introduced me to one of his favorite gospel singers. The late Alma Perry also touched my life, as she and I became dear friends. I arranged for singing engagements for her numerous times, especially in my own church, and especially with HIS MEN and in prisons. Those big, burly prisoners would melt when she sang, "In this very room, there's quite enough love for all of us." I wept at her bedside one day in the hospital as cancer was snuffing the life out of that young body. But her impact on my life was profound.
The most dramatic impact on my life, however, was made by an indigent black prisoner from Gary, Indiana Our paths crossed in a providential manner, and I eventually discovered that Maurice Carter had been wrongly convicted. In the next decade we would not only fight together for his freedom, but we would become inseparable brothers. My family became his family. His elderly mother became my elderly mother. Maurice only lived for three months following his release from prison, after serving 29 years for a crime he did not commit. But his impact on my life was profound.
I'm a white Dutch boy, in an all-white community, worshiping in an all-white church, but I thank God that my life has been incredibly brightened by my numerous African-American relationships. Maybe that's one way the King dream can succeed...one person at a time.