Last night, I went to the movies in downtown Brooklyn to see “Marshall” with my sister, Jocelyn. Chadwick Boseman did an amazing job, and it’s a truly compelling film about the first African American Supreme Court Justice and Sam Friedman, a local Jewish lawyer who’s never taken on a criminal case, defending Joseph Spell, a Black chauffeur, who is accused of sexual assault and attempted murder by Eleanor Strubing, a wealthy white socialite, in Connecticut during the 1940s.
As we sat through what seemed like 25 minutes of previews, I thought about the very first movie I ever watched in NYC. It was in June 2008, and my sister and I saw “Sex and the City” at Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas in Jamaica Queens. It was during a rough time for us when we really didn’t have a lot of money, and we questioned whether we made the right decision to move to New York and how we would survive. To get our minds off of our situation, I told her let’s go see a movie even though we really couldn’t afford it. We needed a 2.5 hour reprieve from the struggle that was then our daily lives.
While in college at Grambling, I used to watch SATC all the time. I desperately wanted to move to New York and work in the sports and entertainment industry. I craved the nightlife, the culture, the food, the people, the opportunities, and the endless possibilities. I wanted to live a life like the fabulous yet fictitious Carrie Bradshaw. I also knew I wanted to write, but at the time fulfilling my dreams of having an exciting career in sports was vastly more important.
It is funny how life works out… now here we are.
My sister and I celebrated her 31st birthday the day before on October 20th. I told her I would treat her to a movie since she mentioned she wanted to see “Marshall” and so did I. Before settling in to our seats for the movie, Jocelyn and I went to “It’s Sugar”, a candy store in downtown Brooklyn, and bought some treats. Jocelyn was also craving nachos so she bought some at the theater. During the previews, I thought about how broke we were when we went to see SATC, how we, now, didn’t give it a second thought about going to a movie or buying overpriced snacks, how we are both blessed with great jobs that pay well and apartments of our own, how we want for nothing and have a surplus to give. I thought about just how far we’ve come and all that we’ve accomplished in the last 10 years.
It truly feels like we are “marshalling” in a new era in our lives.
This feeling came full circle this morning. I went for a walk to Cadman Plaza while listening to The Potter’s House podcast. In the October 14th sermon, T.D. Jakes preaches about “The Homeless Jesus”. This is a summarization of the message:
“To discover your purpose is to lose your home. The moment you discover who you are you realize that you don’t fit. You cannot have purpose without displacement. It is in fact the displacement that pushes you into your purpose. To find my purpose, it puts me in a state of constant search. I’m never happier or have more energy than when I’m in my purpose. My spirit only rests when I’m in my purpose. Anything else is unsettling to my spirit, and I’m always a little discontented even in places where other people find rest, because I have a meat (meet) that you know not of.”
This morning I posted on Facebook about how this sermon really touched my spirit during my morning walk especially as I walked alone along a path at Cadman Plaza which is usually active during that time with joggers and people walking their dog.
I had a meat (meet) that many people, including family and friends, knew not of. I had to leave my hometown and move to a place where I could fulfill my purpose. I’ve done a lot since moving to NYC, first arriving in 2007. I’ve marked many to do’s off my checklist. I know God still has so much more for me to accomplish. A lot of people told me I would never make it, and laughed and mocked my dreams. They wanted me to stay where I was and not venture outside of where they knew me. Even Jesus couldn’t perform miracles in His hometown... a prophet has no honor in his own country.
T.D. Jakes also preached about reaching heights in your own personal journey, and the people who try to devalue you and your success.
“Familiarity breeds contempt. Your desire to live on the level of your capacity insults people who are satisfied to stay where they are. They find your zeal irritating. How dare you come from the same place and try to be more? How dare you try to be somebody? Your success reminds me of what I could have been had I pushed myself a little bit harder.”
This sermon, celebrating with my sister for her birthday, the movie, a much needed talk with my mom, and other events that happened this weekend tied up so many things I had been feeling emotionally and spiritually in my personal and professional life. It gave me a greater perspective and allowed me to see the full picture – my past, present and future, and the direction in which God is ordering my steps.
Jesus had a multitude of followers depending on Him to save them, to heal them, to feed them. Despite all the miracles He had done, people still didn’t believe in Him and that He is the Son of God – not even his own brothers! Thurgood Marshall and Sam Friedman contended with racism and anti-Semitic views in the quest to defend an innocent man who could have spent 30 years in prison which would have also been detrimental for Black people who lost factory jobs and needed to do domestic work for white families to receive steady income. If they had lost the case, the fear was that many Black people would be fired due to bigoted beliefs that they would put themselves in harm’s way if their servants acted like Joseph Spell. They fought hard against all odds and obstacles and won the case! I’ve contended with racists, doubters and critics who tried to deter me from moving to NYC and follow my dreams even though they knew firsthand my work ethic, ambition, and goals.
One of my favorite lines from the movie is when Walter Francis White, Thurgood's boss, tells him...
“There are only thirteen million Negroes depending on you.”
I may not have thirteen million people depending on me like Marshall, but I depend on me - with God’s grace, favor, and mercy - to see me win! And if my story helps only one person to pursue their dreams despite the circumstances they face, then that one person may be the person to rise up and one day have thirteen million people depend on them.
My other favorite line from the movie is...
"The only way to get through a bigots door is to break it down."
Indeed, it is. Thank you, Justice Thurgood Marshall. Your remarkable legacy lives on. You are thoroughly Thoroughgood!