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Point of view: God sees people, never color

After an antiracial incident in 2011, Elon’s head women’s basketball coach Charlotte Smith decided to channel her thoughts via poetry, and eventually music.

When I stopped on a Burlington, N.C., street in fall 2011 to let some cars pull out of a restaurant parking lot, I simply thought I was doing something nice. It was the sort of small-town courtesy I had been taught growing up in rural North Carolina. The next thing I knew, a man behind me was honking his horn. He then got out of his car, stomped up to my window and screamed repeatedly, “N____, gotta get out of the way!”

My first reaction was total shock. I had never experienced such blatant racism. I was angry. I wanted to retaliate and yell back. But the first words that came out of my mouth were, “God bless you.” And those same words came out again and again as he continued yelling. He returned to his car and I followed him to get a license number from his out-of-state plate. Soon he was on the highway and gone.

At the time, I was new to the area and tried to make sense of what had happened. To express my feelings, I turned to my love of music. I had always gotten a sense of peace when I wrote poems as a youngster, and later when I set lyrics to song. So a composition seemed the best way to find some healing. In the days following the incident, I deeply considered the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who wrote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Armed with that inspiration, a song began to form in my mind. Titled “Lord Give Us Your Heart,” it became a prayer to ask God to allow us to see the world as he intended it to be. “We are sisters, we are brothers,” I wrote. “God sees people, never color.” With the song taking shape, I soon found powerful support from members of the Elon community who wanted to stand with me against this kind of hatred. My personal composition became a team effort with the help of Todd Coleman, a talented musician and arranger and a member of Elon’s music faculty. He recruited Kennedy Caughell ’12, a brilliant vocalist and graduate of Elon’s music theatre program, along with several other student voices. We began recording in a campus studio and the arrangement came to life.

We were proud of the finished production, but the right time to release it publicly didn’t come until recently, when our nation became embroiled in racial issues ignited by the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. Todd and I conferred and agreed that our piece provided a message of love, healing and reconciliation. We shared the song via Elon’s social media in January, and the reaction has been strong and affirming. Of all my compositions, this piece is my favorite. I hope it opens the eyes of good people who want to fight racism and bring about changes in our world. I encourage you to take a few moments to listen to the song, and if you feel moved, would you share it with others? Our world will benefit immensely if each of us takes time to spread a little love and understanding every day. As my lyrics explain, “love is a force that can’t be stopped, but we have to keep it in our hearts, because what we pass along will shape generations to come.”

God bless you!

Charlotte Smith was named Elon’s head women’s basketball coach in June 2011. She previously served nine years as an assistant coach at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she had an All-American career topped by a last-second shot that earned UNC the national title in 1995.

Lyrics: Lord Give Us Your Heart

Verse
We were made in God’s image
created in likeness, that includes you and me
But when hatred is prevalent our world is divided
it destroys the unity (repeat)

So open the eyes of our mind
Lord reveal your perfect design for humanity,
for humanity

Chorus
For we are sisters, we are brothers
let us show love for one another
we are sisters, we are brothers
God sees people never color

Let us have eyes to see the way you did
from creation’s start
Give us your eyes
Lord give us your heart (repeat)

Bridge
Love is a force that can’t be stopped
but we have to keep it in our hearts
’cause what we pass along will shape generations to come

Peace is a force that can’t be stopped
but we have to keep it in our hearts
’cause what we pass along will shape generations to come

Chorus
’Cause we are sisters, we are brothers
God sees people never color
we are sisters, we are brothers
let us show love for one another (repeat)

Let us have eyes to see the way you did
from creation’s start
Give us your eyes
Lord give us your heart (repeat)

Keren Rivas,
Staff
2/12/2015 2:50 PM