Precious Lord: A Poet’s Cry

Precious Lord: A Poet’s Cry December 12, 2012


Freedom Riders sit at the feet of Martin King’s friend and co-worker, Dr. Vincent Harding.

I’ve heard a recording of Thomas Dorsey telling the story of how, after his wife’s death during childbirth, he could not even find words to pray. Some friends who were keeping vigil with him said, “Just start.” So he said, “Lord…” But he couldn’t find anything more to say. One of his friends said, “Say, ‘Precious Lord!'” And Dorsey says he immediately began to sing the words of his famous hymn, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

As the 21st Century Freedom Riders retreated with Dr. Vincent Harding this past weekend, he told us the story of how, in the hours before he died, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. heard Ben Branch and the Bread Basket Band practicing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” at the Loraine Motel in Memphis. When King stepped out onto the balcony to go to dinner that evening of April 4, 1968, he spotted Ben Branch in the parking lot below. “Be sure to play “Precious Lord,” he said. “And play it real good.” Moments later, the shot rang out that took King’s life. “Precious Lord” was his final request in this life.

As we considered Martin’s message, “America, you must be born again,” and what it means for us today, we began and ended by listening to a recording of the song that Martin was asking for. Here is a poem inspired by our final listening, written by 21st Century Freedom Rider Tavonda Hudson.

Precious Lord

By Tavonda Hudson

Walk with me; comfort me
on this journey of uncertainty.
Precious Lord, take my hand.

Run with me; rest with me,
so I know I can face adversity.
Precious Lord, take my hand.

Talk to me, ride with me,
so I know I can find liberty.
Precious Lord, take my hand.

Guide me; reveal to me
the Light that our new “we” can see.
Precious Lord, take my hand.

Guard us; protect us
so that we may fight.

Wake up, America!


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