Rev. Harry Blake- A CIVIL RIGHTS LEGEND
The Pecan Trees are in full bloom, the Air is crisp and the future is something that little Harry Blake is not even thinking of. The young tyke is running freely thru the fields of Dixie, Louisiana and simply being a kid but little did he know that he would actually make history.
Dr. Harry Blake has endured many tests and trials but the greatest challenge he would ever face would be that of success and respect. Going through the Caddo Parish school system, he looked around him and saw an unjust society he wanted to change.
In 1960, at the age of 25, he became a field representative for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The organization was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and dedicated to ending segregation; something Blake would risk his life for on many occasions. It was during those tumultuous times with Dr. King and the movement of racial independence that Dr. Blake saw his faith in God increase.
In an interview given to Reporter Alexandyr Kent, Dr. Blake takes the reader on an insightful look back at a time in the world where all he had was faith in God.
Harry Blake: When I got hired on Martin King’s staff, I went up to the plantation to say to my dad and my mom that what I was going to do, I knew it might bring death to me – and maybe even to them, or at least injury – and I wanted to apologize before that happened. But since they instilled those values in me, they were responsible for the decisions I made. My dad said he would be disappointed if I made a decision counter to that.
Alexandyr Kent: Perhaps no day in the local Civil Rights Movement was as turbulent as Sept. 22, 1963. A week after four little girls were killed in the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing, organizers in Shreveport planned to lead a nonviolent memorial march and service. It would begin at Booker T. Washington High School and end at Little Union Baptist Church. On the Saturday before the planned Sunday march and six days after applying for a march permit – organizers had been denied by then Police Commissioner George D’Artois.
Harry Blake: What I really planned to do was call the march off, because I didn’t want people to get arrested. He said to me, “If you have the march, we are going to arrest everybody who is participating.” So we finally decided to meet at the origin of the march – the designated origin – and say to the people, “Get in the cars and just go to Little Union rather than march.”
At the end of the service, I believe the late Attorney Jesse Stone went out to say to the commissioner, “The people need to come out of the service.” So while we were organizing everyone to exit, I went out of the vestibule of the church to see what was going on because we heard a noise.
Some of our youngsters were being beaten by the police and as I entered the vestibule, the commissioner caught me and handed me over to two other policemen who began to beat me.
They then brought me on the outside, and each policeman who could get a piece of my head with his nightstick began to beat me. When I appeared to be lifeless and nonresistant, they left me to lie on the grass. The mistake he made was that he hit me on the hardest part of my body, my head. Had he hit me anywhere else I know I would have died.
Alexandyr Kent: Blake is generally uncomfortable in talking about himself a Civil Rights leader. “So many others made sacrifices than just him,” he explains. But he agrees to do interviews like these for posterity’s sake. The lessons he and others struggled to learn, after all, and still being learned today are what some author’s dream of composing.
Harry Blake: The fight for justice and equality never ends. We had it in the Fifties and we had the struggle in the Sixties. Now we are in a new century still dealing with racism and inequality. So as long as humans will be humans and the world is in existence, it will always be a struggle. I think we need to remind the people of the fifties and sixties as well as this generation that the fight is never over.
Alexandyr Kent: Still, Blake sounds ambivalent about his legacy. He explains his wife and family made so many sacrifices in order for him to lead. He wasn’t home enough, he says. He wasn’t as involved with his children as he should have been.
Harry Blake: I am perhaps the only person alive that would make this statement, and not because it’s right but because it’s my feeling: Sometimes I question whether I got my priorities straight as I set out to help change society in my community.
I was never home with my wife and my children who needed me. I think what has made this more pronounced in my life within the past 10 years is my meeting with Rev. Kings Daughter. I reminded her I was on his staff and we were talking about how great he was. She said, ‘You know, you people call my daddy great, but he was a daddy to us that we never got to know. He’s a hero to you all, but he was a daddy we never got to know.”
I have son who got caught up into drugs, so I beat myself up every day that maybe had I provided for him what was missing, and what he was looking for, then he wouldn’t have gotten caught into the spiral of drugs.
I think I understand better the meaning of Jesus’ expression, ‘What does it really mean for a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul.” To be a Civil Rights leader, and then lose a son to drugs, what have I really gained? Is the world any better because we have a black mayor or black politicians? We can go to hotels, but is it really any better? So I question that. I have to reconcile that, and may not be able to do that until I get to heaven.
Reverend Harry Blake is a graduate of Bishop College, Dallas, Texas. Reverand Blake has been pastor of the Mount Canaan Baptist Church of Shreveport, LA for More than 42 years. He is President of the Louisiana Baptist State Convention and General Secretary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
He has served as Moderator of the Thirteenth District Baptist Association, Dean and Vice President at Large of the Congress of Christian Education of the Louisiana Baptist State Convention, as well having served as Chairman of the Evangelical Board of the Louisiana Baptist State Convention.
His civic involvements include President, Board of Directors, Canaan Village Apartments, a Low income housing complex; President, Board of Directors, Canaan Towers, a Senior Citizen/handicap housing complex; and Grace Project Incorporated, a community development corporation for the revitalization of the Allendale Community.
He is also the President of Project Uplift, a center for the development of human potential. He also serves of the board of Directors for Shreveport Bossier Community Renewal and was appointed by former Governor Kathleen Blanco to the Louisiana Recovery Authority Board.
He is past President, Mount Canaan Day Care Center, Past OIC Director, and past Director, Excel PUSH Auxiliary. Reverend Blake has been guest lecturer at Morehouse School of Divinity, Arkansas Baptist College, Leland College, Wiley College, Bishop College, L. K. Williams Ministers Institute, American Baptist College, Birmingham Bible College, United Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary.
Reverend Blake has led the Mount Canaan Baptist Church family into establishing a Model Prayer Service that has been emulated throughout the nation. He has instituted ministries to serve all segments of the congregation and community. Those ministries include: tutoring programs, children’s ministries, young adults’ ministry, women’s ministry, and a prison ministry.
Reverend Blake has been married to the former Norma Jean Jerniganfor 50 years. He is the father of four: Elizabeth Harry II, Rodney, Monica and the grandfather of sixteen.
Even with all those accolades and acknowledgements, Dr. Blake has remained humble and touchable. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word Legend as, a person who is the center of such stories.
Dr. Harry Blake has single handedly walked in those shoes and continues to do so. Dr. Harry Blake A LEGEND!!!!!