Sunday, January 20, 2013


On a visit to the Medford Public Library, my teenage son and I spotted an flyer announcing a concert of gospel music to be performed that night by the choir of the Shiloh Baptist Church in honor of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. We dropped in on impulse because Shiloh Baptist was in our back yard and we sometimes heard the choir practice.

For some reason we were early. I plopped us down on the left-hand side of the center aisle about half way back. On the other side, more to the front, a handful of African-Americans had seated themselves.

As the audience drifted in, Justin noticed that the few white people were clustering around us and the African-Americans sat everywhere else. Now, Justin grew up in West Medford getting into equal-opportunity mischief with whoever happened to be around. He couldn't believe this. "They've left three empty rows!!" he hissed at me indignantly.

     As the audience continued to develop on the same lines, he became more and more disgusted, eventually insisting that we get up and move.  I didn't quite want to be all that pointed about it, so I thought of something to ask the choir director.  At first the expression on her face might have meant "What are you doing here?" or "Why are you bothering me when I'm trying to focus on this program?"  As we chatted, she softened up and apparently decided I was all right.

     Having made peace with her, Justin and I sat down on the right-hand side of the hall and enjoyed the concert.