First, my condolences and prayers to the families of Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, Rev. Charles Belcher and Mr. Julius Butler.

The names of the last two gentlemen you may not be familiar with. They were colleagues of mine from church, who also passed away in same week as Mac and Hayes. All were great men who were loved and respected by many for their work, commitment, passion and so much more. They gave their life for the things they believed in.

Rev. Belcher was the Pastor of St. John AME Church in St. Louis. I didn’t know too much about him, except that he was always very kind and friendly toward me; and he was a great preacher. Mr. Julius Butler served faithfully at First AME Church, Los Angeles for a number of years. During the 15 plus years that I was a member and then minister at FAME, Mr. Butler was one of the many people that encouraged me in my early years of ministry. He was like an adopted uncle.

No doubt, the entertainment and religious community have taken a great loss. Regardless of their notoriety or lack thereof, what matters most about these black men is not their birth-date or transition date, but the dash in the middle. (Jan xxxx – Jan xxxx)

The dash in the middle tells the story of how they lived and what they did with their time. The dash in the middle lists the names of the people they impacted with their comedy, or music, or preaching or leadership. The dash in the middle speaks to the character of each of these men. It is where we find out how they spent their time living, the quality of life. The dash in the middle is what they will be remembered for; and it is where all the wonderful memories are located that family and friends will recall over dinner years from now.

At one time or another we will all have a dash in the middle of our birth-date and transition date. If these men have taught us anything in the past week or so, is to make the most of the dash in the middle. The dash represents the limited time frame from birth to death, and all that we did with the time. That small dash in the middle represents all the moments that should be treasured, cherished and not wasted.

UTC readers, have you given much thought to the dash in your middle? I mean, have you stopped long enough to think of how will you be remembered? And/or for what? What will your dash tell about you and all that you did and didn’t do with the dash in the middle?

Is there a project, idea, or dream has been sitting on the back burner of tomorrow, waiting on next week? Who have you neglected to call and say “I love You!” to? Could there be a kind act that you still need to do, simply because it the right thing to do?

My thoughts are not intended to make anyone sad, but to cause us to think (and maybe even act) since we still have the gift of life, time and right now. One day it will be represented by that little short dash in the middle.

Najuma Smith is a preacher, world traveler, writer, and proud parent. She currently serves as the full-time Sr. Pastor of St. James AME Church in Los Angeles. Unapologetically saved and full of purpose, she enjoys sharing words of encouragement with anyone who will listen, bringing a fresh look at life in light of the Word of God. Her collection of motivations and observations are exclusive to Urban Thought Collective. Visit her at

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