​Civic Engagement - Franklin County KY

Together Frankfort

We Refuse to Go Backward!


By Robert Earl Houston

 Robert Earl Houston gave the following speech during Together Frankfort's "Standing in Solidarity with Charlottesville" gathering held Aug. 16, 2017. The Frankfort State Journal later published the speech, in its entirety, in the local newspaper.

“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

I want to emphasize the second portion of this text: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

It must be crystal clear that the purpose of our coming together is to speak diversely but speak with one clear voice, in love and loving others. That the actions of a few will not deter the intention of the majority.

We will not allow our nation to go backwards in history.

We have fought racism, sexism, ageism, religious intolerance, and wars within and without our borders too long to begin devolving into a society of intolerance. There is no “all sides”. There are only two sides — right and wrong.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The truth of the matter is that if you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. We, as people of this community, refuse to go backward.

We refuse to go backward.

This community is committed to going forward.

We want to see our community prosper.

We want to see our community thrive.

We want to see our community live in peace.

We want to see our community respect our religious traditions.

We want to see our community build relationships.

We want to see our community love one another.

We refuse to go backward.

We stand with those in Charlottesville who have been drawn into a battle that is not about statues. It’s about trying to take us backward.

We refuse to go backward.

We stand with those in Charlottesville, Frankfort, Lawrenceburg, Louisville, Lexington, Hopkinsville, Paducah, Bowling Green, and other cities throughout Kentucky, who have been bold enough to say in their cities — not here, not now, and not ever.

We refuse to go backward.

We stand with those who understand that even though there are others who have inflicted weeping upon innocent human beings, they forget the scripture, “Weeping endureth for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

We refuse to go backward.

In this community, we will love each other, help each other, support each other, pray for each other, and most importantly we must learn to go forward together.

We refuse to go backward.

I know that our country is in turmoil. Some would say that our nation, which has stood for 241 years — not always perfect, stained with sins like racism and inequality — may seem like it’s broken.

I buried my mother, Naomi Houston, in December. She had an old mantle clock that was in our home since the 1960s. The clock hadn’t worked in years and my sister took it to be repaired. But when the clock was repaired, it didn’t go backwards — it went forward. So it is with this. We must work together to repair this breach. We will not go backward — we will go forward.

Robert Earl Houston is senior pastor of First Baptist Church (Clinton St.) and editor of the American Baptist Newspaper, one of the oldest African-American religious publications.