In 1954, this little Dutch teenager began his first part-time radio job at station WMUS in Muskegon. To this point in my life, I had attended an all-white Dutch church and an all-white private Dutch school. Imagine the culture shock each Sunday morning when I expected to unlock the front door of the radio station to let in the singers of a black gospel quartet called the Heavenly Echoes.
The manager of this all-male ensemble was a dynamite little African American woman named Sister Mattie Davis. One of my first lessons from her involved prayer. I was used to all the Christian clichés that I had heard in my circles all of my life. Not so when Sister Mattie Davis offered her prayer on the radio every Sunday morning. Despite serious racist issues back in the 50s, she would earnestly plead for the safe-keeping of first responders: “the policemens and the firemens!”
Sister Mattie Davis, and her prayers, touched my life.
In the early 1970s someone contacted me at my radio station, WGHN in Grand Haven, and asked if I would like a guest on my talk show in observance of Black History Week (It was only a week back in the 70s). I quickly agreed, and a towering, handsome black dude showed up driving a car that looked like an accident waiting to happen. He introduced himself as Cy Young, former entertainer and emcee, now a pastor. He claimed to have the gift of recitation, and had memorized all of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches!
It was a powerful, memorable radio broadcast, and it led to a friendship that lasted until Cy’s death. He not only recited the words, he walked the talk. He lived Dr. King’s message. Our relationship led to multiple multi-racial experiences in my life. I loved the man!
Cy Young made an incredible impact on this young broadcaster and musician.
Maurice Henry Carter
I first met Maurice in the mid-1990s, an indigent African American from Gary, Indiana, serving a life sentence in the State of Michigan for something he said he didn’t do. I worked side-by-side with him for the next decade to free him and to prove that the state was wrong. During that time we became brothers, and my family became his family.
To my dismay, we never cleared his name. Over the years a large team was amassed to help Maurice, but the best we could do was obtain a compassionate release for him in 2003 because he was suffering in the late stages of Hepatitis C. He died three months after he walked out of prison.
In Black History Month, 2015, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to these three wonderful people of color. I thank God that, in his plan for my life, he arranged these amazing acquaintances! Now my life is filled with people of varied racial and ethnic backgrounds. How rich I am!