How I Made It Ovah
Before the terms "Mental Health" or "Mental Wellness", church cathedrals and storefronts, mosque, speak-easys, bars and pharmacueticals were the outlets that melanated people adopted for their peace of mind. Thank the Universe for - education and evolution. For thirty years of my life, I was raised and reared in the church. Now, not just any kind of church. I was brought-up in what has been misnomered as "The Black Church." I'm talking soul music and soulfood, I'm talking shoutin', I'm talkin' bout hoopin'. I'm talkin' bout speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands. I'm talkin' prayer meetings and prayer warriors. Bible study and Vacation Bible School. That's how we made it over. Well ... back then.
Well, one day I'm headed over to my Brother Carl's house - he lives in North Philly. I come out of Fairmount Park onto 33rd Street and I make a right onto Lehigh Avenue. Whenever I approach or drive through this area of North Philadelphia, I get a little emotional. Not because of some tragic or terrible crisis that I experienced as a child, but because of nostalgia. My very first experience with "The Black Church" was at 29th and Lehigh in North Philly. These were my earliest memories of the Christian faith. Gospel Highway 11 playing on my Momma's car radio. The Hawkins, Andrae Crouch and Mahalia. Rosie Wallace, Mary Mason and Barbara Ward-Farmer. And my first pastor - Pastor William L. King of Calvary United Church of Christ.
Every single time I pass that old church, it is as if I'm staring back into time. I can literally SEE the moments, the memories and the people that I shared some of my fondest early experiences with. My cognizance goes as far back as the mid, late-70's and early 80's when it comes to that building. Maybe you can imagine why I'm moved so by this old relic of my past. As I drove further down Lehigh towards 26th Street heading to Carl's, I saw another church on my left. This church wasn't as large as the massive cathedral that Calvary United Church is, but it is the classic image of what a typical "Black", storefront church beholds. The small old dilapidated wooden marquee with the handwritten church name, order of services and it's cleric. And the classic church pyramid window. Another scene that grabbed me, forcing me to park my car on Lehigh Avenue just so I could get the right shot.
As I've gotten older, I've come to realize why these old structures move me so. It's what they represent, or who they represent. People. I look at these aged buildings ... and I see the people. Some are still with us on this plane of existence ... some have gone on. I understand now that though we came together to "have church" ... it was the people. The love of those great old people ... and the love that they shared with one another. People ... trying "to make it ovah.