By the Rev. Anthony Payton
Like most places we visit, particularly aboard, one of the first questions that come up is, “Where are you from?” This was the case as I sat on the beach of Boca Chica Beach in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The question came from a young man, who I later learned was from Haiti. I answered, “Indiana.” He thought I said India and before I could correct him he proceeded to say, “I didn’t know there were black people in India.”
The USA pride in me wanted to correct him, but the historian in me demanded that I take him on a journey first. So, in the tradition of J. A. Rogers in, From Superman to Man, I started within the Horn of Africa and told him about the fruit that Africa has given the world; yes, even India. I watched as this young man’s eyes got bigger and from his entire disposition he revealed “tell me more.” I shared with him the “black presence” in the Bible, which, by the way, was introduced to me by a white, Christian professor.
I must confess it gave me a rush to witness an awakening in this young man. He said to me, “I never heard this before.” Did I mention that he was from Haiti and not Hanna Street? Though these two are distances apart—measuring by miles—his experience could easily be compared to a young African American male growing up on Hanna Street. I can almost hear you ask, “What’s your point?” Well there is an old African Proverb that states, “Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be the hero.” Wow, every time I read or hear that statement I think of the important responsibility that I have.
Well there is an old African Proverb that states, “Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be the hero.” Wow, every time I read or hear that statement I think of the important responsibility that I have.
You see to him, “whom much is given, much is required.” In this context we are knowledge breakers. Failure to tell our story shortens the distance between Haiti and Hanna Street. Let me give an example. I was sitting in the VIP section of the hotel I was staying at in Santo Domingo. It is a private section and all the service providers were black. As they were setting up for snacks; I noticed guests taking snacks from the bar. The guests were white and I was the only black person on the floor that wasn’t a service provider. Now, I had the same VIP bracelet as they did. So, I went up to get some snacks as well. However, I was told that it wasn’t time, because they were still setting things up.
Now, I had no problem with that, but I did have a problem with nothing being said to the white guests that took food before me. I don’t blame them, because they were hungry. I don’t blame the service provider. He was doing his job. What I’m suggesting is that he felt more comfortable telling me that, because I looked like him and there lies the shortening of the distance between Haiti and Hanna Street. The service provider’s response was based on the hunter’s historian.
My Haitian friend thanked me for the lesson and later brought another young man, from Haiti, and asked me to repeat the story. I blasted from the same Horn of Africa and made two friends that day. I continued by sharing with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They didn’t accept Christ into their hearts, but they had two seeds planted in them that day: one of education and one of eternity. When I leave here I’m going back to Hanna Street and my heart’s desire. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
The Rev. Anthony Payton is pastor of Come As You Are Community Church in Fort Wayne.