Several years ago, during Heritage Fair, the library welcomed Father Boniface Hardin to Pendleton. Father Hardin was a social activist and founding president of Martin University, a Predominately Black Institution in Indianapolis. Because he bore an uncanny resemblance to Frederick Douglass, he would perform reenactments of the abolitionist's famous speeches. It was for this reason that he was at Falls Park that day in September.
There was a small crowd of about 30 gathered around Father Hardin as he gave a rousing interpretation of one of Frederick Douglass' speeches. After the speech was finished, he began to sing the spiritual, “We Shall Overcome.” But, somewhere around the third verse, he forgot the words. He started to hum along to the tune, but we could all sense him trying to capture just one or two words that would bring everything back to mind.
And then we started hearing the words. At first they came softly, with a little bit of self-consciousness, but then they got stronger and clearer. It took me a moment to realize that the singing was actually coming from behind me. This small crowd knew the words to “We Shall Overcome,” and they begin filling the awkward space around us, until the awkwardness fell away and compassion and humanity took its place.
I remember that moment as something incredibly profound. And I feel emotional thinking about it even now. I can hardly remember another time in my life where I felt so connected to unfamiliar people in a shared experience of genuine support and kindness. I truly felt that we were all one that day, even if only during a few verses of a familiar song.
Lynn Hobbs, PCL Director