This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021

They were teaching and encouraging, saying to combat White Citizen’s Council policies, redlining, Jim Crow Laws, lynching, unlawful arrests, racial profiling, and other violations of African Americans (& People of Color) civil rights, we must let our light shine.

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I can remember hot Sundays and weekdays sitting in the pews of hot Mississippi churches listening to my grandmothers sing:

“This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine, (Ohhh!)

I’m gonna let it shine

This little light of mine

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”

If you have never heard a deep, southern gospel group of adults or even children sing this song, well, run to YouTube quickly and find some videos or download the music at Apple, Amazon, Google, etc. The song can be an uplift, whenever you need it most. I can still hear both of my grandmother’s voices in my inner ear, singing this song among the other church choir members. At one of my home churches in Mississippi, I can hear the choir singing under the direction of my aunt playing the piano and keying up the verses. I am telling you; the church was hot with the bright sun beams coming down on both of my family churches (in different parts of the State of Mississippi), but the song was “SANG” the same. I can still hear the passion in the voices of the choir, most of them older women: mothers, grandmothers, aunties, cousins, sisters, family…instructing us in the audience to let our light shine.

Most of the church was much older than me. My grandparents’ generation lived through World War II, Jim Crow Laws of the South, and the Civil Rights struggle and gains of the 20th Century. They combatted the ugliness of racism: burned down African American owned stores, fire bombed churches, challenges to perform the guaranteed civic duty of voting, discrimination, and racial bias in the Armed Services while fighting for the United States of America, inability to get farm loans, etc. because of the color of their skin. But through it all, they “let their light shine.” By law, it was determined that they would live as second-class citizens in the South, segregated as “separate and unequal” and through it all they “let their light shine.”

It didn’t matter if you were an older adult, adult, teenager, or child…in the church, listeners were told:

“Everywhere I go

I’m gonna let it shine

Everywhere I go

I’m gonna let it shine

Everywhere I go

I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

And why? Why did (do) we have to shine the light? It is true that the Bible reads, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV). But I tell you more practically, my grandmothers and the leaders of their generation were singing more practically. They were teaching and encouraging, saying to combat White Citizen’s Council policies, redlining, Jim Crow Laws, lynching, unlawful arrests, racial profiling, and other violations of African Americans (& People of Color) civil rights, we must let our light shine. They did GOOD when faced with EVIL, demonstrated LOVE when given HATE, and offered FORGIVENESS (not forgetfulness) when presented MEANNESS, OPPRESSION, and OFFENSE. The choir knew what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Let’s choose to love today and every day, loving our neighbor (others) as we do ourselves (Mark 12:31, NIV). Love to all of you and thank you for your leadership Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. May we continue to let our light shine!

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