Peter J. Gomes is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church and and American Baptist Minister. A member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of the Harvard Divinity School, Professor Gomes is a beloved figure, revered teacher, and icon at Harvard. His books include New York Times best-sellers as well as the marked up title i turn back to, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News? " The Gospels are countercultural, a reality that mainstream churches often put aside", he wryly notes.
My Cambridge interview with him inspired me to make storytelling the foundation of my work on 'Writing History," the curriculum development project I'm working on with English Department Instructor, Lisa Taylor, at Wiley College, the Home of the Great Debaters, in Marshall, Texas.I've been shaken by witnessing the tribulations of the black community who are locked out of Love Cemetery and the lack of any response when I directly asked the opposing attorney if he visited his family's cemetery how might he feel if he were the party locked out and unable to pay his respects to his parents or grandparents and ancestors. He changed the subject , every time, and refused to answer.
I also know the truth of the quote, attributed to Longfellow, that "if we heard another person's story, even our worst enemy's, we would weep with sorrow." The most memorable part of the interview centered around Longfellow's quote, and the dilemma of people, on both sides, of being stopped by their unwillingness to hear another person's story.
For African Americans, he pointed out, their story may have been the only thing they had control over, the only thing whites couldn't access, steal, or take away. For white people, I suggested, the unspoken guilt, and awareness, just under the surface for many, that something is deeply wrong in our society but that if the daily level of injustice and privilege that the dominant society requires to function were to be acknowledged, the world might fall apart.