Love of the Deepest Kind

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

Along the Way, This Week at Plymouth August 4

“A culture of domination like ours says to people: there is nothing in you that is of value, everything of value is outside you and must be acquired.” —bell hooks

“I am somebody.” I remember the first time I was told to repeat the phrase. I had heard it many times before, as it was the go-to chant of affirmation used by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr. in his speeches at marches and rallies. Jackson got the phrase from a poem penned by Rev. William Holmes Borders, who significantly influenced Jackson and Rev. Martin Luther King, who were both known for their pursuit of equity and dignity for all. I was a teenager at a rally held in my hometown during a boycott of businesses because of the refusal of the school board to consider a Black applicant to be the school superintendent. The majority white school board administered a school district where more than 90% of the students were Black, and the schools were overcrowded, underfunded, and neglected. In contrast, the all-white private academy across town, where those school board members sent their children, thrived.

During that boycott, I understood what it meant to be considered less than others and how policies and practices reveal the people an institution considers valuable. I grew up and went to school in a system of domination where the best schools, homes, and opportunities were reserved for white people. I believed it when I chanted, “I am somebody.” Still, politics, business, and culture transmitted the alternative message that I could make myself more valuable by what I owned, acquired, or accomplished. And for a long time, I thought the most effective antidote to being valued less was to get more . . . more education, more money, more possessions, more access.

As I got older, after years of striving, trying to prove myself, to achieve my way out of rejection, discrimination, and not feeling valuable or valued, I discovered what it means to love and be loved. Like the people in the Gospels who encountered Jesus, who saw and embraced them just as they were, I found the most satisfaction, not in what I owned or even all I accomplished, but in love . . . love of God, family and friends, and my community. That’s love of the deepest kind—a love that sees with the eyes of the heart. A love that seeks to know someone beyond what the eyes see superficially and values us in our humanity. A love that pledges fidelity to another, not because of a promise of any return, but because of the promise of what we all can be if we are truly seen as beloved. We have been shaped by culture, politics, and economy that see us as voters, consumers, soldiers, tribes, taxpayers, or anything other than human. I pray that we reject the devaluation of God’s beloved and see everybody as somebody.