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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Eliot Battle 'found me in the middle of giving up'

By Carl W. Kenney II/Missourian reader
June 12, 2013 | 1:58 p.m. CDT

Carl W. Kenney II is a newspaper columnist, creator of the blog Rev-elution, author, and instructor at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. He earned a Bachelor’s in Journalism from MU, a Master of Divinity from Duke University, and is a Fellow of Pastoral Leadership and Development at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He contributes this reflection on the life of  Eliot Battle. 

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I often wonder what would have come of my life without Eliot Battle to catch me when I was falling. Would I have been another casualty among countless black men trapped by the madness in their heads? Would my label be high school dropout with stories about what could have been if? Would my tag be "he could have been, if"?

Mr. Battle stood out among the rest at Hickman High School back in 1977. It was that tense time bordered by cries for Civil Rights and the quest for black identity. He came to me in the middle of deep angst related to loads of chaos too heavy for me to carry on my own. He found me in the middle of giving up after listening to a voice that begged me to give up on living.

He refused to allow us to crumble under the pressure to prove our place among white students. The echoes in our heads told us we didn’t belong there. It felt like our space among the rest was like getting in the way. Added to my grapple was the pain of death. My sister died.

How can you learn when death hurts too deep to think?

I stopped going to school. Mr. Battle found me and took me back. He refused to give up on me.

I wonder what would have happened if not for Mr. Battle’s trip to 309 Dean St.

The good news is I don’t have to ask. He walked with me when I was too weak to step on my own.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.