Lonna Jordan’s story written by Michael Brockley.
Lonna is 53 years old.
Do You Hear What I Hear
During the Christmas season, my friends and I gathered in the sanctuary at Trinity United Methodist Church where we recited Bible verses about the birth of Christ. The Grimes children turned somersaults and backflips. I tap danced with my brothers and sister to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” At the end of the celebration, the congregation summoned Santa Claus with “Jingle Bells” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” as we circled the pulpit, anticipating the arrival of the jolly old saint. The women wore glorious hats, some with veils across their eyes, and others with orchids attached to bright ribbons. I wore a red, hand-me down dress my sister wore the year before. My friends giggled as we sang “Santa Claus comes tonight.” As the song drew to its close, Reverend J. C. Williams stepped into the doorway at the top of the stairs from the basement, bellowing “Ho Ho Ho. Merry Christmas.” He leaned forward with a red sack as large as a Nativity camel heavy upon his back. We sang of Jack Frost nipping at your nose, until our pastor sat in the worship chair to tell us the story about angels and shepherds and about the Three Wise Men and the star. The youngest babies rocked in the Reverend Williams’ arms as the deacons gave us the gift of Christmas books. “The Night Before Christmas.” “The Little Drummer Boy.” “Earth Angel,” a book Reverend Williams wrote himself. My first Santa Claus was a black man who welcomed a rainbow of black and brown and tan and white. And all the colors in between. This is my memory of peace.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
When I asked him why God made me white and guided me to his church, Reverend Williams answered that everyone brings a gift to the table. That everyone has a time and a place and a purpose. As I combed the hair of my Trinity girlfriends, I questioned my blonde hair and fair skin. On television, policemen sprayed men and women who looked like my pastor with a fire hose. My pastor, who wrote poetry and ran for mayor. Whose father was lynched by people who looked like me. We drank lemonade in the kitchen in the basement of the church. I trusted the wisdom of this man who stood waist deep in the baptism river and lowered me into salvation. He said, “Those are not your sins.” And prayed I would not be silent in the presence of evil. Said my time to stand for justice would come.
Through It All
In the year Gloria Gaynor charted with “I Will Survive,” my dad co-signed a loan for me to buy a 1975 Chevrolet Malibu Classic. Silver with a black vinyl roof and black bucket seats that swiveled. $85.00 a month. I played Earth, Wind and Fire on my eight-track. Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger. I christened my car “Silver Bullet.” I worked as a crew member at the Tillotson McDonald’s to make money for my payments. Ran the cash register. Cooked fries. Took drive-through orders for milkshakes. And I played touch football in the streets. Lettered in basketball, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics. I became one of the first females to be awarded a Bearcat varsity letterman’s jacket. I drove Silver Bullet to practices, to school, to work and to worship. Whenever I saw the lady, who taught me how to make fried chicken, waiting for a bus or walking to church, I always gave her a ride. Once a friend dared me to push Silver Bullet’s 350 engine to 100 mph but, driving west on Kilgore by Warner Gear, I chickened out at 95. On Halloween morning, someone soaped and egged my car. Insulted my friends, the people I loved, with what they wrote on the car windows. The most hateful words I know. My dad reminded me people learn to hate because they have never been taught the way my mother and he had taught me. The way Reverend Williams and the Trinity ladies taught me about love. My dad helped me clean the car. We used warm, soapy water to soak and wash away the yolk and shells before they ruined the finish. I drove Silver Bullet to a Halloween party at church that night. Singing “Shining Star” with the windows rolled down to the forgiveness in my heart.
Oh Happy Day!
I came to God white, and through the grace of gospel and soul was baptized black. The Trinity Senior Choir, a procession of blue robes with red stoles, walking in step to gospel hymns. Lifting me up with “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” Summoning me to be someone better than I am by opening with “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” At every service, I hoped the Senior Choir would bless my life with “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” All God’s music filled me with His Spirit. My father bought my first albums. Diana Ross and the Supremes. Otis Redding sitting on the dock of the bay. I sang “Stop in the Name of Love” with my sister, choreographed with turns and hand signals. Even today, I thrill to the sound of Jackie Wilson reaching for a love that lifts me higher. Dena, my sister and I brought heavenly kisses to weddings and worship services where we sang “Stand By Me” and “How Great Is Our God.” The ringer on my cell phone plays “Let’s Stay Together.” I still sing Earth, Wind and Fire with the windows rolled down. I hear “I’ve Got Christmas in My Soul.” I hope those righteous men and women will bear me to Trinity’s sanctuary to teach me one last glorious lesson to the chorus of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”
This story originally appeared in Facing Racism in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by R.A.C.E. Muncie in Muncie, Indiana.