By Dr. Ramona L. Hyman; Photographer (All pictures)-David Stewart, Jr.

Called by God at the age of four to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, Alfred (Al) Charles Sharpton, Jr., D.D. has spent his life in service as a Christian preacher and activist sacredly committed to “selfless leadership” and service. He is an American Civil Rights Activist, Minister, and host of Politics Nation with Al Sharpton.

On January 29, 2017, inspired by the visionary ministry of the Oakwood University Church Senior Pastor, Carlton P. Byrd, D.Min., the Huntsville community experienced this humble symbol of Christian witness in the public square with a special visit by Dr. Sharpton as he offered the keynote sermonic address to commemorate the beginning of Black History month in a special community forum sponsored by the church. The forum was attended by a myriad of people from the Huntsville community, including members of the Oakwood University Church and Oakwood University; area ministers and their congregations; and political leaders. Representative Laura Hall applauded Dr. Byrd for sponsoring socially uplifting and unifying programs for the Huntsville community. Oakwood University’s Vice President of Academic Administration, Karen Benn-Marshall, Ed.D., welcomed Dr. Sharpton on behalf of the university.

Reflecting upon the “times in which we live,” Sharpton’s poignant message was grounded in Matthew 8. In his message entitled, “How to Ride through a Storm,” Sharpton reminded the congregation that “fear and faith” cannot exist at the same time. He said, “. . . we’ve been through storms before.” The climax of Sharpton’s sermon was a soul-stirring testimony honoring the woman whom he calls his “bedrock”—his mother. Dr. Sharpton has lived on both sides of the American economic ladder. He has known poverty. Sharpton’s mother modeled before him the strength needed to go through a storm. The boy preacher’s father abandoned the family, leaving the family financially destitute. In what may have been a stormy time in their lives, Sharpton said his mother called on the Lord. She, said, “. . . [Lord] if I never have a house again, it will be alright if You take care of my little girl and little boy. . . .”

Sharpton testified, “The reason she [could] jump up [in church] is she lived to see that little girl and little boy grow up and be somebody . . . . The reason I know her story is true, I am her little boy.” Clearly Sharpton’s mother was that even-balanced hand through [his] life. . . she always pushed [him].

The founder, along with other activists, of the National Action Network (NAN), “Dr. Alfred (AL) Charles Sharpton, Jr. is clear about his life’s mission,” said former United States President Barack Hussein Obama, to be “a voice for the voiceless.”

Side Bar: African American musician James Brown encouraged Dr. Sharpton to abide by the call God on his life. Brown encouraged the young preacher to walk into his calling. He also admonished young Sharpton to “never have a pity party.” He also encouraged him not to be “intoxicated by the crowds.“

Side bar: “God doesn’t need a co-signer to get you to do what He wants you to do. Fulfill your calling.”

About the author, Ramona L. Hyman, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English at Oakwood University, is a writer and speaker living in Huntsville, AL. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Ministry. She is the author of the collection of poetry, “I Am Black America.”