Ringing the Bell
By Reggie Beamon
Everyone has something to say and it seems there is a place for every message. Thanks to the beauty of blogs and social media, a variety of platforms exist for the expression of any and all thoughts to the rest of the world. But getting a message across in as few words as possible is not new.
As a former politician working with sound bites on radio where the seconds in time allotted me to introduce issues kept my message to less than a few dozen words. And it’s just amazing to watch how much imagery is squeezed in a televised commercial of less than thirty seconds to advertise just about anything from pharmaceuticals with unpronounceable names to luxury end automobiles.
But the practice of condensing messages by anyone with access to the internet, which today is just about everyone, is a new trend changing our language from the words we know to a kind of shorthand which many users believe are real words. This change in our language is transmitted by ever newer devices tested every day competing for future consumers…wonder if any of these devices, at least for a while, will prevail in the long run.
Recently, en route to Philadelphia, I listened to Waterbury’s WATR Radio’s “Talk of the Town” hosted by Larry Rifkin. During that broadcast, WATR played a jingle from the late 50’s. Immediately, the thought of a particular morning show from that era of my childhood came to mind during which a contest question was asked and a number given to call in. I knew the answer. Running from the radio to our black rotary dial phone, dialing in and getting my call answered by a live person was so special to me. The person on the other end of the line repeated the question which I answered correctly, winning, to the delight of my mother, a gift certificate for Sun Beam bread. No instant messaging, e-mail or Face book, just a rotary telephone. That sense of accomplishment seen from the twentieth first century as the old fashioned way, back then made some sponsor and a young boy quite happy.
As the bus we were on sped down the New Jersey Turnpike, and Larry Rifkin finished with his show for the day, checking my office email remotely from my iPhone, which proved to be a downer. It seems the faster technology changes, the more constant the glitches and for things to go wrong. I might not have been able to use a pay phone from a telephone booth or a rotary phone from public transportation, but years ago when I could, there seemed less problems with phones. Later on that day we discovered the office email had been hacked. Shame on me for thinking this new technology was safe and secure, or maybe shame on me for working while on the road, believing myself adaptive, if not savvy, to a new method of communication, able to send and receive a message back as rapidly as possible.
We had come to Philadelphia from all parts of the nation to celebrate OIC’s 50th Anniversary. We were blessed to be in the company of social and civil rights heavy weights, U.S. Representative John Lewis, an icon, and Reverend Al Sharpton who, as keynote speaker, delivered an inspiring speech on the value of OIC founder Reverend Leon Sullivan.
When listening to a speech by someone with a dynamic delivery, like the preacher and activist and orator, Reverend Sharpton, you get the feeling of what accomplishment and the work to become accomplished in speaking or any calling truly means, and to appreciate a message worthy of elaboration when not minimized by technological and time constraints.
Sharpton stood before a very large and formally dressed audience, his evening message on the mission of Reverend Sullivan to empower black citizens, primarily, to excel and not to accept being victims of circumstance was felt by all present. In the black church, we are used to hearing, though less frequently these days, during a rousing sermon someone advising the preacher to ‘take your time’ and preach. That’s what good keynote speakers do, they take their time. So glad Sharpton’s message was not abbreviated to sound bites or the alphabetical and symbolic characters which prevail in social media platforms. Sharpton emphasized that if black people did not step up and insist on doing better, like the leading example of Reverend Sullivan, then we were just either lazy or ungrateful for all the work and sacrifice of those who went ahead, like John Lewis and Reverend Sullivan, to blaze the freedom trail. That message continues to resonate today. The hope of those messages kept a movement alive, while uplifting a down trodden people.
In May, WOIC utilizing a new method went to a “crowd funding” website for our request of financial support for our 40th Anniversary Gala to be held on Friday October 24th at the Aria in Prospect. A component part of the set-up using the resource was the crafting of a short message to potential funders highlighting WOIC’s information.
As of this writing not one dime has been generated from this new fundraising tool—yes, there always seems to be a problem with new technology…or maybe the messenger did something wrong.
Meanwhile, until the problems are resolved, donations continue to come to our center from the traditional method of writing letters and snail mailing them out. We keep our correspondence brief without condensing the language needed to convey our special message. While we work to solve problems and master new technologies, we are reminded of what Sullivan wrote in “Build Brother Build” of the future need for new teaching methods, sometimes embracing old methods pays dividends.
We are constantly reminded that we all have so much to say and so many ways and places in which to place those messages. We ring the bell today feeling blessed to know there are multiple ways of getting out our message of self-help and opportunity, and that we have options and freedom to successfully tell our story.
(At publication of this article, our crowd funding website is working. So again, we ring the bell.)