Their Story Is Proof That Racial Reconciliation Is Possible in America
Will Ford and Matt Lockett, authors of The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America, met at a prayer meeting in 2005. Ford and Lockett spent 10 years developing a strong friendship and praying together for racial reconciliation. A decade into their friendship, Lockett made an incredible discovery about his ancestors, which sent the friends on a path of forgiveness and reconciliation with one another.
Ford and Lockett join The Daily Signal Podcast to share their story and discuss how America can move forward as a united country, remembering the past but choosing hope and healing instead of unforgiveness.
Also on today’s show, we share some good news about the work of Human Coalition. The pro-life organization has continued to save the lives of the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing its capability to serve women.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
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Virginia Allen: I am joined by Matt Lockett and Will Ford, authors of the book The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America. Will and Matt, thank you both so much for being here today.
Matt Lockett: Oh, it’s good to be on here, Virginia.
Will Ford: Thank you for having us on today, Virginia.
Allen: Now, Dr. Alveda King wrote of your book: “Will Ford and Matt Lockett are indeed advancing the God-inspired dream of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Two paths, united beyond skin color, came together to bridge the racial divide in this compelling saga destined to turn the pages of history toward a victory.” That’s quite the endorsement.
Allen: I read that like, wow, yeah, it doesn’t get much better than that, to have Dr. Alveda King say that of something you wrote. And wow, we are going through a time in history right now, where we are just facing that choice of, do we stand united or divided? I want to ask you all to just tell me a little bit about why you chose to write the book.
Ford: I feel like we wrote it, one, because we didn’t have a choice, the way God interwove our lives together, and we just could not not see the handiwork of God in the whole thing.
The Puritans used to have this way of conceptualizing God and talking about … providence, and it was just so interesting that the story starts in Lake Providence, Louisiana.
Providence is the continuous activity of God by which he preserves and governs, just the way God looks over seemingly insignificant things and apparent accidents. Seeing the handiwork of God and how He brought us together, but then understanding it.
If God is that serious about the details of our life in this, it means, one, he’s really serious about life and the intrinsic value of every person, he’s really serious about healing the racial divide, and I also believe he’s really serious about bringing revival, bringing another awakening to this nation.
Allen: I want to dive into that a little bit more because I think that’s absolutely correct. You’re hitting the nail on the head. But a lot of the book, obviously, focuses around the friendship that, Will, you and Matt have. So, could you all just tell me a little bit about how you first met and began this journey of praying together and praying for racial reconciliation in America?
Lockett: Yeah. Will, why don’t you go ahead and get started and we’ll kind of bring it together.
Ford: Yeah. So, for us, really, this starts with this 200-year-old kettle pot that’s been in my family. It was used by the slaves in my family.
The reason why it was passed down, Virginia, is because they use it for washing clothes, but secretly it was used prayer. They were owned by a slave master in Lake Providence who would beat them for any reason, and praying was one of them.
Irony is that he wanted them to be Christians, but he didn’t want them to pray because he felt like if they prayed, it would foster hope, if they got hopeful, they would run away.
So, they would literally be beaten if they were caught praying. But, these folks in my family, they were Christians. They decided to pray anyway.
So, these Christian slaves, what they would do is they sneak into a barn late at night to make sure their prayer meeting wasn’t seen, but to make sure it wasn’t heard, they used that cast iron kettle pot.
They would take this pot and turn it upside down, prop it up with rocks on the edges, and they would put their lips in between the opening, between the ground and the kettle, by prostrating themselves on the ground, and they would pray in a whisper underneath that kettle pot so that the pot would muffle their voices as they prayed through the night.
The story they pass down with the pot is this, is that they didn’t think they would see freedom in their time, so they prayed for the freedom of their children and the next generation. So, one day, freedom comes, this young teenage girl decides to keep this pot and that story in our family.
She passed the pot and the story down to Harriet Locket, who then pass it on to Nora Locket, who then passed it on to William Ford Sr., who then passed it on to William Ford Jr., who then gave it to me, William Ford III. So, I’ve been taking that pot around the country.
… I started in 2000, taking that pot around the country, and talking about the prayer bowls and heaven. We use that pot as an acoustic means to keep the prayers of the slaves from being heard, but … according to Revelation 5 and 8, there’s a prayer bowl over every family.
There’s a prayer bowl that actually catches our prayers, collects it as incense before God’s throne. So, there’s a prayer bowl over our nation and God’s looking for a new generation of people to resource the prayer bowls.
I’d been talking about how it wasn’t just black Christian slaves praying back then, but also white Christian abolitionists who know that if any person with a slave was a Christian, they know that person was their brother.
Those white abolitionists laid their lives down for them. Many of those abolitionists were lynched just like the slaves were because they chose to suffer with the people of God rather than compromise and wink at slavery.
So, it was the prayers of that group of people, those white abolitionists, those black Christian slaves that prayed into being the first and the second great awakening.
Allen: Wow. So, Matt, how did you get connected with Will and begin traveling with him and traveling with that large cast iron pot and telling this story and encouraging those prayers that were prayed generations ago to continue today?
Lockett: This’ll be kind of funny, maybe, for some of your listeners, maybe a little strange, but I’m doing this because I had a dream.
When I say that, sometimes people are like, “So what, like the dream of your heart, like an idea? And I tell them, “no,” I actually fell asleep at night and I had a dream, and the dream wasn’t anything that I was familiar with.
It actually was from somewhere else, as I like to say, where God began to speak to me in a dream about what he wanted to do to shift America to a culture of life specifically, but how he was going to do that through day and night prayer.
This dream came at a really kind of a low point in my life. I had lost my father unexpectedly. After my dad died, I became really focused on wanting to figure out where my family history was.
And my dad’s family, the Lockett family, we never knew any of our genealogy. We never knew our family tree. I decided I was going to try to figure that out, and I spent about a year looking into it.
A lot of people have done that. I found that fewer and fewer people do that these days, it seems like.
But, after about a year of looking into it, I hit all the same roadblocks that other family members had hit in the past. So I was finishing out this year of struggle more frustrated than it began because I didn’t know anything about my family. We didn’t know where we came from, we could only get back to my dad’s grandfather in Kentucky.
It was during that time that I had this very strange dream from God. That dream led me through a series of events where I basically started trying to track down what was happening in that dream.
I found out that there was this prayer meeting happening on Martin Luther King Day in Washington, D.C., at the Lincoln Memorial. That day was Jan. 17, 2005, and so I was there.
I showed up at a prayer meeting, I took time off work, spent hard-earned money, and flew across the country to go to a prayer meeting outside in January.
It was zero degrees that day. I didn’t even really know why I was there, but I knew I was supposed to be there. That was the first place that I came together with Will. So, I was there, it seemed like a chance encounter, but I was there because God gave me a dream.
Ford: Yeah, same thing for me, Virginia. I’d been taking that pot around the country and sharing the story that I just shared with you, but I wound up at the Lincoln Memorial that day as well because of a dream.
I had a dream about the dream of Dr. King, and in the dream, long-story-short of the dream, you can read more of in detail in the book, but basically, the deal is this, God began to deal with me about the unforgiveness issues that I had with the white community, began to deal with the baggage that I was carrying.
So, I shared that dream with a good friend of mine and he said, “Hey, I’m doing this prayer meeting at the Lincoln Memorial, why don’t you come, bring your kettle, share your story, it will be MLK celebration day, share that dream, and it’ll be a powerful time.” So, I’m led there because of a dream, and Matt was led there because of a dream as well.
Allen: Wow. So, it’s 2005, you all meet at this prayer meeting for the first time, but how does your friendship develop from there?
Lockett: Well, I’m listening to Will tell the story that day of the kettle and the slaves who prayed, and I was really provoked by it because I had spent a year trying to figure out my family history and I knew nothing. And yet I’m listening to an African American man who has this rich spiritual heritage and a legacy of ancestors who prayed for the destiny of this nation, and it really provoked me.
But then, as I’m listening, Will shares this detail that the kettle had been handed down after slavery to Harriet Locket, who gave it to Nora Locket, who gave it all the way down to Will Ford III. That was my last name, so literally I was in this moment, a very strange moment, where I was hearing my name in this storyline.
So, I went up and I talked to Will after the meeting. We met afterwards and we started comparing notes. It was kind of odd at first, but he asked where my Locketts were from and I said, “Well, Kentucky, as much as we know.” And his Lockets were down in Louisiana. He asked how we spelled our name. And so, we spell it with two T’s, L-O-C-K-E-T-T. And he’s said, “Oh, well, our Lockets only spelled it with one.”
We thought it was this amazing coincidence, but it was enough that we prayed. The first thing that Will and I ever did together, besides meeting each other in a prayer meeting, was we prayed together.
So, we stood right there, the moment we met, and we prayed about the past of America. We prayed prayers of repentance for sins of the past, prayers of forgiveness, and then we prayed for the future of this nation as well. So, that’s how we met, and that was how we kicked off this friendship.
Allen: Wow, wow. And then you spent about the next decade … traveling together, praying together, really just growing in friendship together until you made a pretty unique discovery.
Lockett: Yeah. That’s a key part that you just said, that we prayed and just did life together … for a decade. I’m so thankful for that decade of just having time to build relationship, learning how to love each other well.
I love Will, I love his family, I fight for his dreams, he fights for mine, but it was after about a decade that I visited Appomattox Court House. That’s a historical location in the middle of Virginia, and it marks the end of the American Civil War. That’s the place where [Gen. Robert E.] Lee surrendered to [Gen. Ulysses S.] Grant.
I visited that site to pray one day, and my friend and I were in the little visitor center and [he] grabs a book off the shelf randomly and he opens it to a random page, and he was stunned because the title of the page was, “The Battle of Lockett’s Farm.”
We didn’t know what it was, but I started to research that topic, and I found out that the last battle of the American Civil War happened in the front yard of a family named Lockett, spelled with two T’s.
So now, it’s a decade later, but I’m having a similar moment where I’m hearing my name called again, and I think, “This has to mean something.” Isn’t that interesting?
As a Christian, I am a believer, that means I believe something and one of the things that I believe is that our lives have meaning. I don’t think that anyone is an accident. I think that God has purpose in mind with each of our lives.
So I’m thinking in that moment, “This has to mean something.” It was about that time that my brother, actually, he was the one that got breakthrough in our family tree, … contacted me and he starts telling me how our forefathers had come through as settlers in Virginia in the year 1645.
And I said, “Virginia? Have I got a story for you,” and I started to tell him the story about the end of the Civil War, and he stops me and he says, “That’s not that place down by Appomattox Court House, is it?” I said, “That is exactly where it is.” And he says, “Oh, I just found the documents on it. That was our family.” So, this is the discovery.
So, Will has been telling this story all of these years and he has this artifact, he has this relic of the past of American history that he’d been telling this story about people who prayed, and then all of a sudden I find out after a decade that I too have a relic from the past, and it’s this historical site, this farmhouse that’s still there today. And in its front yard it has a marker that says, “Here Lee fought his last battle.” That is when the story really began to take shape and some of the plot began to thicken.
Allen: Yeah. So, Will, do you want to carry on with how then that further connection was made in realizing how your two families are linked?
Ford: Well, first we thought it was this cool coincidence. You’re like, “Wow, this is cool because I have this kettle pot where slaves prayed for freedom, and now we found out you have this house where the Civil War ends in your family’s front yard.” We thought, “Pretty cool coincidence.”
So, Matt actually goes to that house. Why don’t you share the story, Matt, about what happened when you went to the house?
Lockett: Yeah. The house is still there. It’s been preserved. I went down and I met the man that lives there and he invited me in and I was stunned when I walked in the living room and framed and hanging on the wall was the Lockett genealogy.
Lockett: I had my brother’s newly found research, confirmed it. This was my family. And he says, “How much do you know?” And I didn’t know much, and so he starts talking about the Locketts who had left and gone to Kentucky — that’s the part we did know.
And then he said some of the Locketts left and were in the deep South, some were involved in very significant historical events. But then, he said this, he said, “Some left and went to Louisiana and, in some cases, there was a clerical error in the handwritten ledgers and they misspelled the name and they dropped one of the T’s.”
I’m thinking, “My gosh, this can’t possibly be true, what I’m thinking right now.” So, I just gather all of this up. I’m trembling as I say this now because the story, see, … this is a story for now, Virginia, and every time Will and I tell this story, we feel God on this story, and we think that this is a story that the nation needs to hear.
So, I gather up this new information and I go down to Dallas where Will lives and we lay it all out. So, this is kind of what we found out. Will, you want to share?
Ford: Yeah. He lays all this out, this newfound information, and … our minds go back to the first conversations that we had with each other when we first met each other about the T’s at the end of our names, Locket.
My grandfather was born Lawrence Locket, and they was born shortly, of course, after slavery. So, his parents didn’t want him to have a slave last name, so they took the last name from one friend, took the first name of another friend, and that’s how my grandfather became William Lawrence Ford. But … he was a Locket. We were Lockets at first, and we always knew that.
Now he’s telling me this whole thing about the T’s. And so, here’s where the connectors happen.
I had a genealogist look into my family history and he found a man named Isaac Locket. He was living there in Lake Providence on a plantation in 1870. 1870 census, Isaac Locket was 90 years old. So, five years after slavery, more than likely that’s the place where he lived his life as a slave. But, in that document, Virginia, Isaac Locket said he was originally from Virginia.
So, we knew that after we researched. The master’s family was one of the few Lockets that were in that area. We did another year and a half worth of research, and here’s what we learned. We learned that it was Matt’s family who owned my family, where that kettle pot came from.
Allen: Wow, wow.
Ford: So, think about it. Here’s my family praying for the ending of slavery —
Ford: … and then all the way up at the farmhouse of the people who used to own them, slavery comes to an end in their front yard.
Ford: But then, because he’s the God of the past and the future, and he loves to heal the history, he weaves two guys from those same family lines together, Matt Lockett and I, so we can mourn this injustice in our day and cry for awakening in our time.
Ford: Because that’s the kind of God we serve.
Allen: Wow. I mean, there aren’t words to describe just how incredible this story is, and how the Lord knit your relationship, your friendship together, your history together. Tell me what that moment was like when you both realized, “Oh my goodness, this is our story.”
Ford: Like I said, he came down, he flew from Dallas to D.C. with this information. And then, … we just talked and prayed and cried. Then, when he left, honestly, we just texted each other every morning by 5:30 in the morning, just texting and talking and crying, and just, “I found out this, I found out that,” looking at more research.
Honestly, Virginia, there was one part in the whole discovery where I’m trying to prove that Matt’s family didn’t own a family, in a sense. Because now, I’m confronted with something, now after all the wowie zowie stuff wore off, now I’m trying to forget how my friend was ever my family’s enemy.
I have the face of somebody from that family, and I have stories connected to that whole history of slaves being beat to death, and we heard stories about that in my family.
Now, I have a face and it’s the face of somebody that loves, right? And so, I had to go back to that whole thing, remembering the dream that God gave me with Dr. King, and again going to a deeper level of forgiveness.
We talked through this together, but I had to do a lot of soul-searching myself. Matt talks about how he had to do his own soul-searching too.
Lockett: Yeah, I think, as a white man in America, I’ll just say this, and sometimes I say this and I get a good response and sometimes I say it and I get a not-so-good response, but I’m going to say it anyway.
I think that we have been far too guilty at times of having a dismissive attitude about historical pain in the African American community. We’ve, many times, taken the attitude of, “Hey, you weren’t there, I wasn’t there, get over it.”
But see, this was different for me because it wasn’t just an idea anymore. I had been doing life with Will for a decade before I knew any of this.
See, the story isn’t what connected Will and I. God allowed us to build a relationship, a loving relationship, where I love this man, and doing life together, and I had been hearing the pain of his heart. I’d been hearing about his life struggles, he’d been hearing about mine. But … suddenly the pain of a community was very specific because it had a face and had a name, and it was a face that I loved.
But now, suddenly, I find out after 10 years of hearing the kettle story that I’m connected to that story, and not just connected but I’m actually connected to that of the slave owner. That was so hard to hear that.
This isn’t like a shame or a guilt kind of thing that I’m trying to put on anybody, I’m just trying to be honest that, suddenly, to find out that I had a direct connection to real pain with real people, that was actually very difficult for me to come to grips with. And I did. I had to do a lot of soul-searching through that time.
And here’s the thing, … God wasn’t in a very big hurry to get us out of that wrestling match that we were in. God actually let us sit in that state for about a year and a half before he moved the story forward.
Ford: Yeah, so a year and a half goes by and Matt makes this amazing discovery.
Lockett: Yeah, Yeah. See, in the war before the Civil War, there was another one, right? The Revolutionary War. And I was praying one day and the Lord led me to read this book about a revival that broke out in the middle of Virginia during the Revolutionary War. And I was stunned to see a list of names recorded that had been added to the Methodist circuit rider itinerancy.
Right in the list was a man named Daniel Lockett. He’s right there in my family tree. He’s one of my forebearers.
And this is what you have to understand, I love the history of the Methodist Church because at that time in history that I’m talking about, they were abolitionists. You could not be a circuit rider and own slaves.
So, these circuit riders were abolitionists and they would travel, not just with bibles and hymnals to the frontier, but they actually carried a legal document with them called a manumission form.
It was a legal document that allowed people to set slaves free, and what you find out when you look at where the circuit riders went at that period in history, everywhere they went, the population of freed slaves exploded because that was the power of the message that they were carrying.
So, yeah, my family has slave ownership in its history, but if you go back a little bit further, there was some other unfinished business that God had already started, and it was that of revival and abolition, and I’m locked in on that for this generation.
Ford: It’s so powerful because you think about it, in all our families, Virginia, we have these things called generational curses and generational blessings, right? And you see them play out in people’s families, like you’ll see one family with this curse of addiction or whatever, whatever type or whatever kind is played out over and over again, from family member to family member, from new father to new father to new father.
But you also see generational blessings go down too, this character, integrity, and an amazing work ethic can be passed down as well, with the fear of the Lord being over a family for generations. You see that kind of thing play out, and those represent these dominating themes and story lines …
Matt had slave owners in his family, but he also had this powerful revivalist and abolitionist as well. So, he had these dominating things. I have [them] in my family too. You have them in your family. But we have them in the nation.
What God is saying right now is this, “What storyline do we want to be a part of? The healing or the hurt, the blessing or the curse? What story line are we going to be a part of?”
Allen: So, how do we actively make that choice? …
You didn’t ignore the pain and the hardship and kind of that ugly reality of discovering, “Wow, Matt, at one point … his family owned slaves,” and they owned the ancestors that were Will’s great-great-great-grandparents and so on and so forth.
So, how do we honestly look and say, “OK, yes, America, we have these huge blemishes in our past, but also …” — like you talk about with the circuit riders — “there’s incredible beauty, and freedom”? How do we make that choice to recognize the hardship, but also take hold of the beauty and move forward in unity?
Ford: I think Matt talks about the power of privilege, but I talk about the power of forgiveness with this thing. We have to get to a place where we forgive and do the work. I know that’s not a popular message right now, I know people want to push back at the whole understanding of that, but listen, if it takes 70 times 70, that’s what Jesus said, we have to do that.
That’s really the way that we move the chain forward. But there has to be another side that’s willing to listen to the pain and listen to the story of the other side. That’s where reconciliation starts. It doesn’t end with reconciliation, really, the whole thing is to move us toward restoring people to the place of human dignity that God made available to us through the cross.
So, that element of it is really, really key, but it’s being honest, sharing those stories, and willing to stay in a room with each other … and stay in relationship with each other until we get those breakthroughs that we need.
Lockett: That’s really good. I’ll add this to what Will just shared. I think that in the same way that God is using our story, I think, to provoke a discussion in the nation right now, I actually think that every detail, every facet of it is a signal to what God wants to accomplish.
And I don’t think it’s an accident that Will and I met each other in a prayer meeting, and the first thing we ever did together was to pray together. That was the foundation of our friendship and relationship.
And I believe that the way that you kick up into this, as Will said, this providential dimension of our lives, and the ability to choose blessing and cursing, the way that you kick up into that dimension is through prayer.
I think we can talk about ideas. We can talk about concepts and policies and all these things all day long, that’s all good and we need to do that, but listen, prayer introduces this dimension of what God has already started in the past.
See, there’s this powerful concept, this idea in the Bible that God will start something in one generation with the intention of fulfilling it in a later generation.
So right now, we’re in a moment, it’s a very tense moment in our nation, but I also know that God has already started some things, and it’s our privilege to discover what is this unfinished business that God has already been up to and how can I participate in that.
So, this is where the blessing and the cursing enter, because it’s easy to see curses after curses, just roll on, roll on, bad choice after bad choice, but God’s already started some good stuff, and through prayer, we can actually kick up into that dimension and find it out.
Allen: Yeah, so powerful. Where can our listeners learn more about you all, follow what you’re up to, buy the book?
Ford: Dreamstreamco.com. That’s our shared website. That’s where we have other blogs and articles talking about things that are happening in culture right now related to this issue, and also of course, where you can get the book.
Please go there and buy the book. It’s going to equip you for how to navigate through these conversations. It’s an amazing conversation starter, especially with pastors and leaders. We know many churches that are doing small groups with them right now.
But beyond that, it’ll help you get a healthy understanding of how we got to where we are and what God is doing. More importantly, what is God doing in the middle of this?
Our story is just one story like this. God is connecting people in powerful ways to the unfinished business of everything he started with the prayers of those who have gone before us.
Allen: Thank you both so much, Matt and Will. I just really appreciate you all coming on and sharing your incredible story. …
Ford: Yeah, and what we shared is honestly the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more in the book. Thank you, Virginia, for bringing us on today.
Lockett: Yeah, thank you.
Allen: Of course, of course. … This was a pleasure and [I] definitely encourage our listeners to buy the book and read that story, like you say, in full. We’ll be sure to link that in today’s show notes.
Lockett: Great. Thanks a lot, Virginia.
Virginia Allen is a news producer for The Daily Signal. She is the co-host of The Daily Signal Podcast and Problematic Women. Send an email to Virginia.
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