Connecting Threads

Daryl Davis was the son of a State Department Officer.  He lived in various countries and was comfortable in a variety of cultures.  When he was 10, he was the only African American in an all-white Cub Scout troop.  His troop welcomed him, although those outside the troop were upset.  This was 1968.

Davis became a blues musician.  He performed with such legends as Chuck Berry, B. B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters and many other popular groups at the time.

While playing at a bar, a white patron of the bar complimented him on his music:  “This was the first time I ever heard a black man play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.”  The patron didn’t realize that Jerry Lee Lewis learned to play from black musicians—what was often called race music.  Davis and the white man had a drink together, talking about music.  It was the first time the white man had ever talked to a black guy.  The white man revealed that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).  The conversation continued and the white man asked Davis to contact him whenever he was in the area.

This experience gave Davis the idea of connecting his music to conversational threads that might improve race relations.  Davis would engage in conversations with KKK members.  In one session with the leader of the KKK in Maryland; after a tense beginning, Davis and the Klan leader became friends.  In fact, Davis asked the Klan leader to be his daughter’s godfather.

Over time, Davis was invited to Klan meetings.  He was given Klan robes and hoods.  He was even asked to join the Klan.  In many cases, Klan members disavowed their membership in the Klan after getting to know Davis.  The head of a Klan spin-off even asked Davis to give away the bride at his wedding.

Davis has summarized his lessons learned as:  “Ignorance breeds fear.  If you don’t keep that fear in check, that fear will breed hatred.  If you don’t keep hatred in check, it will breed destruction.”

Davis has used his music to connect threads of fear with the result being that the threads of fear become a fabric of understanding and mutual respect.  Just imagine what one person can do to make a difference in one of the longest standing challenges our country faces.  How might each of us find our own conversational thread to overcome our fear and the fears of others?

Mutual understanding is so much more enjoyable than lingering hatred.  Fear of the unknown is often reduced by just finding one common thread that begins a journey of understanding.  We have to wonder why finding that one thread is so hard to achieve.

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“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone…and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something.” – (Supreme Court justice and often the thread of reason for decisions by the Court)

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