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Civil Rights Warrior Says Faith is the Cure to Injustice and Prejudice

02-17-2018

Melba Beals has seen her share of evil. 

She was just 14-years-old when she became one of the Little Rock Nine, an iconic group of African-American students chosen in 1957 to integrate into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Yet, going to an all-white school as a black child would nearly cost her her life. She faced throngs of angry protesters set on preventing her from ever stepping inside the high school. 

"We get chased down the street behind this mob with men holding ropes," she told CBN News. "Who goes around expecting that they'd be hit by an adult? I was a child."

The Battle Against Fear

She couldn't shake the fear that consumed her every day on her treacherous walk to school. 

"There were no words to describe my fear. It upset my tummy. There was a point at which I could only be fed intravenously because I couldn't hold food down," Beals said. 

Yet, Her grandmother told her to put her hope in God because he was with her. 

"That's when I discovered the real God because God's the only thing I had to call on...Who was going to help us among a mob of screeching, calling you names, and showing you what they're going to do?" Beals explained. "I screamed and screamed the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's prayer."

Beals realized that by buying into fear, she was allowing those who hated her to win. Thus began a life-long journey against fear -- a journey she writes about in her book, I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith under Fire.

Terrorized by Prejudice

Beals became a civil rights fighter, a writer, and journalist for NBC. There she faced daily discrimination in the newsroom. 

'"One thing that would happen is they would all come back to the newsroom and they would have all been to a party that I had not been privy to...the news director might switch assignments," she said. "They were not just prejudiced against my color, there was a strong prejudice against women when I first started." 

That didn't stop Beals from defying fear and prejudice by pursuing stories only her white male peers were allowed to cover. 

Still, she faced relentless torment from her coworkers. 

"I remember this one man who treated me the most awful....he was cutting a watermelon and he had on no clothes," she recalled.  "He had this big slice of watermelon between his legs and said, 'I thought this would take care of two of your needs here'...He was implying that black women were less-than in their moral contingency."

"I said, 'oh boy, what should I say to this?' So I said, 'My grandmother wouldn't approve of this and neither does God so I'm going to let you fold it up and put it away."

Learning Forgiveness

It wasn't long before Beals had another encounter with this man. Except this time was very different. She received a phone call that his mother had suddenly died, and she was the one who had to relay the heartbreaking message to her abuser. 

"By luck of the draw I picked up the phone," she said. "It would be my shoulder that he would have to cry on."

Beals told the man the tragic news about his mother. Surprisingly, he apologized to her. 

"He said, 'My goodness. Do I ever owe you an apology? I treated you awful."

Beals learned a profound message about forgiveness that day. Either choose to live in fear and hatred, or extend forgiveness. Beals chose to forgive that day. 

It's lessons like these that Beals uses as antidotes in her book. She learned through a lifetime of fear, torment, and racism that faith and forgiveness is the cure -- a message she believes the world still needs to hear today. 

"Forgiveness is the center of the good Christian's life," she told CBN News. "This is a must."

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