Commentary

“The Color of Money”

Dwight A. Moody 

A head full of white hair added to the whiteness of my body from head to toe; and even covered with a new black suit and snazzy blue vest, socks, kerchief, and tie, I stood out in the sea of black that gathered last week in Atlanta. There was perhaps a dozen of us white folk celebrating with at least one thousand black folk in what was surely one of the most inspirational evenings I have experienced in a very long time.

 

“I will pledge $500,000,” one speaker announced, after telling the story of his own student days, then added, “And I will give another $500,000 to keep alive the memory of my best friend, whose untimely death prevented him from returning for his sophomore year.”

 

The crowd broke out in cheers at both declarations and we all jumped to our feet and clapped. His name was Verdun S. Perry, Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Strategic Partners, at the global investment firm Blackstone. He is also a Morehouse Man, class of 1994.

 

The occasion was the annual Gala. I went because my dear friend Lawrence Carter was being recognized for 40 years of service as dean of the chapel for the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel on the campus of Morehouse. He was honored with the prestigious Candle Award for Mission and Ministry. The gathering was, appropriately, the 32nd Annual “Candle in the Dark” Gala.

 

Carter welcomed me, sight unseen, when I called the chapel in 2009 while on my Atlanta road trip to introduce the newly launched Academy of Preachers. He heard about my pitch, knew it was what his students needed, and invited me to address his Chapel Assistants during their Thursday afternoon session. Among them were Willie Francois, Reginald Sharpe, Nicholas Richards, David McGruder, and Tyron McGowan,  all of whom showed up and preached at the inaugural Festival on Young Preachers in January of 2010.

 

Carter graced me a $400 ticket to the Gala, but going was still not cheap: suit and accessories, gas and food, and overnight accommodations push my costs to more than the ticket. But then something else happened that busted my event budget.

 

Adebayo O Ogunlesi got up to speak. He is Chairman and Managing Partner at Global Infrastructure Partners (and a lawyer who once clerked for Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court). His page of accomplishments (including degrees from Oxford and Harvard) matched that of three other men honored that night:

 

Eddie S Glaude, Jr. class of ’89, now the chair of the Department of African American Studies and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University;

 

Alvan Holsey Jr. class of ’88, now rear admiral, and commander of the United States Navy Carrier Strike Group, stationed at San Diego, California; and

 

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the former Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 

It was as impressive a line up of distinguished people as I have ever seen in one room, on one occasion, speaking on behalf of one institution. The famed Morehouse College was established in 1867 as one of the first of the 107 institutions now grouped together as the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). (Others include Howard in DC, Fisk and Tennessee State in Nashville, and Simmons and Kentucky State in Kentucky).

 

Over the years, the list of honorees has included such as Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Julian Bond, Samuel L Jackson, Bernard Shaw, Andrew Young, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cornel West, Reggie White, Samuel Proctor, Louis Gossett Jr., John Hope Franklin, Otis Moss, Jr, Spike Lee, Hank Aaron, Denzel Washington, Calvin O. Butts, Louis Sullivan, Danny Glover, Bo Jackson, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Ben Carson, Tony Dorsett, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, Charles Adams, Dick Gregory, Ed Bradley, Robert L. Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, Joseph Lowery, Sidney Poitier, Smokey Robinson, and dozens of others who achieved distinction in business, science, education, ministry, arts, and public service.

 

It is hard to image a list of luminaries more compelling than those who have attended a “Candle in the Dark” gala to celebrate their own contributions to the common good. It is also hard to imagine a more compelling case for contributing to Morehouse College, which seemed to be the conclusion drawn also by the last honoree, the aforementioned Adebayo O. Ogunlesi—he capped off the testimonials with his own pledge, apparently spontaneous, of one million dollars!!

 

The Morehouse student jazz ensemble played, and after I left (about eleven in the evening) people took to the dance floor and had a good time. But on my way out, I pulled aside Terry Walker, administrator at the King Chapel and associate of Dean Carter, and said: “I’m making my own pledge, to exceed at least the cost of my dinner ticket. Thank you for making this event possible for me.”

 

Altogether, we raised that night $3.85+ million, not counting my pledge, of course, and others still coming in! What a night!  I felt right at home, white hair and all.

 

 

 

 

February 2020

 

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Commentary: Archives

Here is an archive of my new series of weekly columns, which began in the spring of 2018.  I welcome your feedback using the reader RESPONSE form at the bottom of every page of this web site.

The Color of Money 

All the Way to Rome

Turn Your Radio On!

Where’s Jesus?

Eulogizing Kobe

The Education of a White Man 

On Living with an Angel

On the Road Again

Signs of Hope 

What’s Right with Southern Religion?

What’s Wrong with Southern Religion?

The End of the World 

Partners in Persecution 

The Write and Wrong of C. S. Lewis 

Can the Supreme Court Save the Culture?

With Billy Barr on the Sawdust Trail

Can Singing Save America?

Cancer: Living, Daying, and Praying 

The Mystery of  Mister Trump 

One Biblical Story, Two Political Visions

Blowing in the Wind 

Will You Also Unsubscribe?

What Kind of Country Do Christian Nationalists Want?

That’s A Completely Crazy Position”

“Let It Go. Give It Up. Throw It Down.”

“I No Longer Identify As A Christian”

Graham, King, and the Two Americas

I Am So Very Sad

Running as a Pro-Jesus Democrat 

Celebrating America the Beautiful 

Surviving a Screen Sabbatical 

Moving the Statue of Liberty

Jesus Loves Obamacare 

Religious Freedom or Religious Confusion?

Praying for the President

And What Do You Do?

Saving the Catholic Church

A View From the Top 

Praying on a Three-Legged Stool 

Was Jesus a Christian?

Keeping My Religion in 2020

What Has Paris To Do With Jerusalem?

Getting Religion in 2020

Religion, Politics, and the 2020 Election 

Listening to the Preacher 

Making America Great Again

David, Goliath, and Donald Trump 

Southern Baptists and United Methodists 

The Practice of Exclusion 

Praying for Revival

From the East and the West

Forgetting the Past

Remembering Angela 

Loving Our Neighbor 

Preaching Us Together 

My Theory of Preaching 

Twice A Year

Helping Dr. Mohler 

Reading Thomas Merton

Meeting Kevin Cosby

When I Read the Book

Bohemian Rhapsody: An Encounter

A Future for Baptist Seminaries?

Fear in Politics and Religion

The First Muslim Seminary

Don’t Preach This Sermon

Read.Talk.Pray.Gossip.

The Lilly Endowment 

The Christian Tsunami

Their Words Seem Like Nonsense 

The Big House in the Middle 

The Judge, the Preacher,  and the Good Samaritan 

I’ll Pass on the Bottle 

A Week of Shame and Pride 

Sabbatical Grace 

Questions for Catholics 

Religious Liberty for All

Resurrection of Kristopher Hampton 

Death of Kristopher Hampton 

All About the Children 

I Pledge my Allegiance

Let’s Move the Statue of Liberty 

Some Preachers of Promise

Southern Baptist Need Pope Francis 

Mystery of the Trump Presidency 

Two Funerals: Graham and Cone 

On the Other Side of Oddville

Here are a few of the articles and stories from my book On the Other Side of Oddville. These were collected from my first series of columns, published by Mercer Press in 2002. You can order a copy by using the response from at the bottom of this page; $20 will cover the cost of the book and mailing. (Checks to Dwight A. Moody).