The Courage to Hope
By: Bobbi Booker, PhillyTrib.com
In the summer of 2010, Shirley Sherrod was catapulted into a media storm that blew apart her life and her job doing what she’d done for decades: helping poor, hardworking people live the American dream. She was a lifelong activist who served as Georgia’s first Black director of rural development. In a March 2010 speech to the Georgia NAACP, Sherrod said: “God helped me to see that it’s not just about Black people. It’s about poor people. And I’ve come a long way. I knew that I shouldn’t live with hate, you know. As my mother has said to so many: ‘If we had tried to live with hate in our hearts, we’d probably be dead now.’ I’ve come to realize that we have to work together.”
Sherrod made what she thought was an insightful and innocuous statement, but an intense media storm followed when a right-wing blogger, the now late Andrew Breitbart, disseminated a video clip of the speech Sherrod had given with the intent of making her an example of “reverse racism.”
The right-wing media ramped up the outrage, and before Sherrod had a chance to defend herself, the Obama administration demanded her resignation. Then, after hearing from Sherrod herself and learning the entire truth of what she said in that speech, the administration tried to backtrack. As public officials and media professionals.
The Courage to Hope: How I Stood Up to the Politics of Fear” (Atria Books, $24.99) not only addresses this regrettable episode in American politics, but it also tells Sherrod’s own story of growing up on a farm in southwest Georgia during the final violent years of Jim Crow. As a child she dreamed of leaving the South, but when her father was murdered by a white neighbor who was never brought to justice, Sherrod made a vow to stay in Georgia and commit herself to the cause of truth and racial healing. With her husband, Charles, a legend in the Civil Rights Movement, she has devoted her life to empowering poor people and rural communities — Americans who are most in need.