The Panther at the Cross
The Panther at the Cross
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This is the story of Carlton and his challenges as a young African American growing up with the trials of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. This fictional story closely relates to the lives of those who grew up during the Civil Rights movement. He started out in Sunday school, recruited by the Gangster Disciples at the age of twelve, following the death of Dr. M. L. King Jr., and joined the Black Panthers as a high school student. He attended Malcolm X College, recruited by the nation of Islam, converted back to Christianity as a young adult. He is now a pastor, a teacher, a mentor, a community leader, and a Christian author. This book should be read by every person who has chosen to take a stand against racism and injustice by every Christian, every African American, every African, and every man, women, boy and girl of African descent. For the record, we are all of African descent. This story will help to clarify the challenges of the African American growing up in America today and what the previous generation had to endure and how the next generation must continue to advance the cause of justice, righteousness, and the cross of Christ.
Wednesday April 3rd, the news was about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his return to Memphis and they were playing segments of his sermon "I've Been to the Mountain Top" where he spoke these words "We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop...And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land." (Rev. Dr. M. L. King) It was one of the most amazing sermon / speeches ever recorded in American history. All the news stations were playing it over and over again, it was as if Dr. King had just been elected president of the United States and he was giving his inaugural address. For Carlton and the rest of the world Thursday April 4th started out like any other day, addressing the issues and trying to just make it through another day. The buzz among the black students on campus was the speech of Dr. King, you could hear people reciting it everywhere you went. You could also hear white students making a mockery of the speech and trying to impersonate his voice. That afternoon and early evening the news was all about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his return to Memphis to support the sanitation workers and their strike. It was all a very common site to see Dr. King in his black suit, white shirt and black tie, all was well until a shot was fired. For many people this shot has become known as "The Shot heard around the world". That evening all you could hear was sobbing, weeping, howling, tearful desperation. The King is dead; they have killed the prince of peace. The sound of an entire community crying, people stopping their cars and pulling to the side of the road as they got the news over the radio. You could hear it repeated over and over again, "no, no, no, not Dr. King." The tears flowing from the face of crying and outraged people soon turned to anger. There was talk about the beginning of the race war, it is now black against white and everything white is evil. That night Carlton and many of his friends and class mates and young and old across the nation took to the streets. If they will kill him, then none of us are safe. Everything that was white was wrong, if it belonged to a white person, you were within your rights to destroy it or take it. Chicago St. and the Eastside of Joliet was going up in smoke, the inner city across America was on fire. They murdered Dr. King, none of our lives mattered anyone of us could be next. He meant everything to the African American community, finally someone who in this day and time was willing to speak truth to power. He was not motivated by greed, not by notoriety or popularity. He loved people and the people loved him. The city of Joliet, raised up all 3 bridges over the Des Plaines River and put city and state police on Interstate 80 to block the West and East bound traffic. No blacks were permitted to go west and no whites were permitted to go east. Police were armed with riot gear, bricks and bottles and Molotov cocktails were flying through the air like nobody's business. No matter where you stood, you could see fire and smoke from all angels. It appeared that everything was lost, and our lives were of little or no value. That Friday most if not all black students stayed home from school, many schools were closed, particularly those that were integrated. The city was under siege and it looked like a war zone. Now was the time for survival, the ways of the street gang and the effects of alcohol had to be put down and behind you. Now you have to decide are you going to be a Gangster Disciple, are you going to waste your life sitting under the street light drinking with the boys or are you going to take a stand and be a man. The next couple of months were some of the most difficult for public schools, colleges and universities, African American students were standing up and demanding equal rights on every front, it appeared that this plan of integration was going to be a great disaster. Riots, sit ins and demonstrations were becoming more common than football, baseball and backyard or basement parties. The conversation among black youth was now turning from sports and parties to power, freedom and overcoming the establishment. There is nothing more powerful to give direction to a nation of people than a common cause and a common enemy. That following school year everything was different. Relationships had changed, people were now on edge about everything, the air was tense with sensitivity. For the first time, the city police had a very prominent presence on the campus. Carlton was now a major voice with the Black Student Union and his thoughts and ideas were being considered even though he was only a sophomore. There was talk about the black players boycotting the football team and not playing if there were no black cheerleaders. There was discussion about how do we get more black teachers and why the white teachers treated the black students differently. Why black students were being told to choose a remedial course of study and jobs related to using your hands, while white students were being encouraged to attend college and obtain higher levels of education and career aspirations. That same year, just as the high school was finishing up its home coming celebration and things were quitting down all hell broke loose.
Calvin Quarles is the pastor of the Church at Bolingbrook, a Christian ministry in Bolingbrook, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago. He is blessed to be the husband of Roxanne Quarles and the father of five children: Mikal, Corey, Melanie, Ceirstan, and Ceila. He has a passion for loving God and loving people. His heart's desire is that all men would come to know Christ as the savior. Over the first twenty-five years of his life he was constantly faced with overt challenges related to race, prejudice, and segregation. Now he hopes to help this present generation identify their purpose and cause as they maneuver their way through the current challenges of being Christian and black in America. From his days as a boy, a young man in the world and in the church, he knew he wanted to write about how our God can take any circumstance and turn it into a story for his glory.

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