John Howard Griffin is one of my heroes.
He’s the white man who took the amazing journey of living as a black man in the Deep South in the late 1950’s. Ultimately, he recorded his saga in a book, Black Like Me. He drew his title from the closing lines of a poem called, “Dream variations” by jazz poet Langston Hughes (“Night Coming tenderly, Black like me”). I wrote about him in my book, Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith, for he is a wonderful example as to what it means to “Develop Our Ear.”
There’s new documentary John Howard Griffin called, Uncommon Vision: The Life and times of John Howard Griffin. UrbanFaith.com recently interviewed filmmaker Morgan Atkinson about his work (read it here).
The film is both informative and inspiring. It tells of his years of blindness and conversion to Christ. Mostly, it tells the tale of how Griffin decided to discover for himself what it was actually like to live as a black man in American during the late 1950’s–to listen incarnate. Aided by medication and sun lamps, he darkened his skin. With shaved head he set out on a spectacular journey into the land of lynching, segregation, and oppression. He models for us the way of incarnation. Griffin was able to speak to the problem of race in American because he was willing to become one with the oppressed in order to speak prophetically on their behalf. I admire this man who chose to experience a foreign pain and struggle.