A Day in the Life

A Great City of Rivers Celebrates Black History Month

My seven and four year-old daughters are taught regularly in their classrooms to "make connections" in the seemingly disparate areas of their lives and studies. It's a good lesson for children to learn and for adults to remember as we should all strive to do the same in our lives.

From working to complete the eastern section of our Three Rivers Greenway to discussing this year's One Book, One Columbia selection, "Saints at the River" by Ron Rash, I have spent the past couple months talking a lot about rivers.

So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that when I happened upon an old poetry anthology of mine from college the other night, I immediately thumbed through the pages to find Langston Hughes' landmark work "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."

One of my favorite poems of all time, I am always struck by its clarity and effortless beauty and, as I think about these "rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins," I am humbled.

I am humbled because now, as Black History Month draws to a close, I again recognize the long traditions of unwavering leadership and selfless heroism that, flowing back through time like "Ancient, dusky rivers," now ferry us to tomorrow's brighter shore. I look back and see all the men and women who came before and marched for us, prayed for us, cried and died us without ever having known our names and I see, as we stand on the shoulders of these giants from generations past, our responsibility to offer our shoulders for those generations yet to come.

A friend of mine recently showed me an old sermon collected by Dr. E.C.L Adams right here on the banks of the Congaree and published nationally in 1928 that read:

I vision God standing
On the heights of heaven,
Throwing the devil like
A burning torch
Over the gulf
Into the valleys of hell.
His eye the lightning's flash,
His voice the thunder's roll
Wid one hand he snatched the sun from its socket,
And the other He clapped across the moon.

I vision God standing on the heights of heaven driving us forward, reminding us of what is possible through commitment and courage and urging us to imagine a world where "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

We hope that Black History Month 2012 has been edifying for you and we look forward this year to celebrating the contributions of men and women from all of the various cultures and ancestries that make this the greatest nation in the history of the world.


Stephen K. Benjamin

The Negro Speaks Of Rivers

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

- Langston Hughes (1921)