lenten journal: picture this


Some nights I sit down to write with a heart full of stuff to say; other nights–like this one–I rummage around through my notes and scroll through pages looking for inspiration. Such is the nature of a practice, I suppose: sometimes it is easier than others.

Today is the sixty-fourth anniversary of my parents’ wedding. I learned tonight, as I wandered about, that March 2, 1956 was a Friday. I did not know they got married on a Friday. I would love to have known that story. The cover picture for this post is one of my favorite pictures of my folks. I would love to know the story behind it as well.

Part of the story I do know is by the time they celebrated their second wedding anniversary, we were living in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. By their sixth, we were living in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia. And on October 24, 1964–between their eighth anniversary and my eighth birthday, Northern Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zambia.

Kenneth Kaunda was the first president of Zambia and, before that, the civil rights leader who was at the forefront of the struggle to break free of British colonial rule. He is now in his nineties and the last living member of that group of incredible African leaders who dedicated their lives to the freedom of their people. My parents got to know KK, as people called him, and his wife Betty. When they moved into State House, the presidential residence, my folks helped them carry the boxes. That first Christmas, my Cub Scout troop caroled at State House and President Kaunda answered the door and invited us in for tea. While we were sitting in the living room, he said, “You have sung of the birth of the Christ child. Now, I will sing for you of my faith,” and he sat down at the piano and played and sang Psalm 23.

Tonight, as I scrolled, I found this picture on the Facebook page of a Zambian friend: Kenneth Kaunda with Martin Luther King, Jr. when KK visited Atlanta in 1960. When I went looking for the context of the picture, I learned that because of that visit, Kaunda went back to Zambia and began nonviolent actions of civil disobedience that helped the struggle for independence become a reality. For me, just two weeks away from walking in Memphis and standing at the window of the Lorraine Motel, where King was killed before he had a chance to turn 40, the picture brought up deep admiration and appreciation for both men and gratitude that my life got to intersect with one of them.

I don’t have a big finish, other than to say I am grateful for the audacity of parents who dragged me off to Africa when I was a baby, for the first president I remember to be such a person of character and faith, and for the legacy of Dr. King and those still fresh on my heart from Tennessee who, even from the grave, are calling me to a deeper understanding of both my faith and my humanity.



  1. These are important memories that expand on our understanding. I remember standing next to Reverend Barber at the Raleigh Women’s March in 2017. He just passed by me in the entry way….but I knew I would remember that. It is history we have a chance to witness. Thank you, Milton. And thank you to your parents.

  2. I like this story very much Milton and especially enjoy how it fits in sideways with the expressive photo.

  3. Milton, as I reread this and really look closely at the photo….are you sure that isn’t my grandmother’s living room! And your dad is sitting in one of her chairs. How much that decor is like hers. (Church parlor, perhaps?)

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