Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: IMPOSSIBLE (09/05/19)
- TITLE: I Gots to Read
By Arlene Baker
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â€œYou knows you cainâ€™t.â€ His wife paused her sweeping to lay a tired hand on his shoulder.
â€œI has to. I has to,â€ he repeated.
â€œAinâ€™t no slave â€™llowed to read. You knows that.â€
â€œGod, help me.â€ David stood and raised both hands to the sky. â€œGod, I needs to read the Bible to my people.â€
Just then, Lucy, the masterâ€™s daughter, skipped by their shanty.
â€œMorning, David. Morning, Phillis.â€
â€œMorning, Miss Lucy. Where you be goinâ€™ chile?â€ Phillis asked.
â€œDown by the river. Papa says a boatâ€™s leaving for Savannah and I want to watch it go.â€
â€œMiss Lucy.â€ David took one step forward and hesitated. â€œMiss Lucy, you ought not be runninâ€™ down there alone. Tainâ€™t safe.â€
â€œYâ€™all take me?â€ She cocked her head to one side with a winsome smile.
â€œYesâ€™m. I will. I shore will.â€ David moved forward.
â€œGood.â€ Lucyâ€™s curls bobbed with her nodding head. â€œPapaâ€™ll be happy. Letâ€™s go.â€
â€œWhat you gots there?â€ the tall Negro asked as they strode toward the Savannah River together.
â€œThis?â€ Lucy pulled a primer from under her arm. â€œIâ€™m supposed to be reading, but I begged and begged Papa to let me see the boat off first.â€
â€œA book?â€ Awe saturated Davidâ€™s voice. â€œFor learninâ€™ to read?â€
â€œOf course.â€ Lucyâ€™s dainty laugh tinkled like her mamaâ€™s dinner bell. She thrust the book toward him. â€œYou want to read it?â€
David took the book, hugged it to his chest, and sighed. â€œCainâ€™t,â€ he whispered.
â€œCanâ€™t read?â€ Lucyâ€™s eyes widened. â€œEverybody reads.â€
Lord, how can I explain to this innocent chile?
â€œI know!â€ Lucy clapped her hands. â€œYouâ€™re just too busy working for Papa, is all.â€ The hands moved to her hips and she nodded with all the wisdom of her 10 years. â€œIâ€™m sure thatâ€™s why. Papa always tells Mama how much he appreciates you. He says youâ€™re honest and he trusts you with anything.â€
David opened the book and peered at the letters he longed to read. He swallowed a groan.
â€œYou want to learn?â€ Lucy tugged at his wrist.
â€œI can teach you!â€
David pinched his eyes closed. Lord, art Thou answerinâ€™ my prayer?
â€œI will.â€ Lucy crossed both arms and smiled. â€œIt will be fun to teach a grown-up. You want me to?â€
Davidâ€™s eyes spoke for him.
After that, he worked hard on his letters. He found words in the Bible that matched the primer. With determination, he conquered more and more words. His master only smiled, ignoring the law that stated anyone teaching Negroes how to read and write could be punished. After all, heâ€™d allowed the blacks to form a church on his own property.
David became an elder of that church. Later, when he escaped to British-controlled Savannah with 50 other slaves, he helped re-form the church, which still operates to this day.
The loss of the country to the rebels put him on the run again. He evacuated with other loyalists to British-held Nova Scotia where heâ€™d planted more churches.
Decades later, David laid his most precious possession across both knees and opened it to his favorite Psalm.
â€œO God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selahâ€ (Psalm 68:7).
â€œThy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poorâ€ (vs.10).
He sighed and leaned back in the old chair. It been â€™most 20 years, Lord. That be a long time enjoyinâ€™ true freedom.
After 10 years in Nova Scotia, an English society had offered passage to any Black loyalists who wished to return to their own continent. Over 1000 people accepted and sailed to Sierra Leone in 1791. There, they established a new city and named it Freetown.
It been a long, hard journey. David smoothed the open pages with one worn and wrinkled hand. After their arrival, heâ€™d planted the first all-Black Baptist church in Africa. He served as pastor, leader, peacemaker and diplomat. He sighed.
I thank Thee, Lord, for always guidinâ€™ even when times was tough. I thank Thee for everâ€™ promise in this here book. He studied the tome resting beneath his hands and wiped away a solitary tear.
I thank Thee, for sendinâ€™ little Miss Lucy to teach me to read.
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