â€œAll we could do was to standâ€
By Chinta Strausberg
Dr. Berlean Miller Burris, the wife of former U.S. Senator Roland W. Burris, chronicled the daily stories written about her husband who was dogged by the media over allegations that he talked to the brother of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich about raising money while seeking then President-Elect Barack Obamaâ€™s U.S. Senate.
She turned that daily pain into an inspiring book entitled, â€œJust Stand: Godâ€™s Faithfulness Never Fails.â€
Just three-days before Blagojevich was sentenced to 14-years in prison, Dr. Burris held a book-signing ceremony at Josephineâ€™s Hardtimes Restaurant, 436 E. 79th St., Chicago, Illinois. â€œWhen Roland was appointed to the Senate, we went through such trials at that time and all we could do was to stand because our backs were against the wall,â€ she said.
â€œThe reason why we could stand was because of Godâ€™s faithfulness to us and ultimately he was vindicated and clearly we could see his faithfulness.â€
When asked how did she cope with the screaming almost daily headlines denouncing her husband, Dr. Burris said, â€œ I just started journaling and I would pray about it. Roland had assured me that he had done absolutely nothing wrong, but we could not convince the press of that and we did not have any ink.â€
Saying she had no intentions of writing a book, Dr. Burris said she simply recorded her thoughts and accounts every day as a way of coping with the pressures they were enduring.
â€œAt the end of the experience, I had journal all of this information and I realized how faithful God had been to us and said I have to tell my story.â€
Dr. Burris said they ran out of money because of the bad press. â€œThat was something he had to contend with. People will stick with you when youâ€™re riding high, but if they think something is going differently, they disappear.
â€œThey sent everything to a Republican stateâ€™s attorney in southern Illinois and told him to find out all of the bad stuff. He looked at everything and determined that there was absolutely nothing there but that was never printed in the headlines,â€ she said. â€œThat was clearly Godâ€™s faithfulness.â€
The youngest of 13 children from Itta Bena, Mississippi, Dr. Burris said Blacks could not attend school to become a registered nurse but they could become a practical nurse. â€œThey were not very kind to us in terms of becoming a registered nurse.â€
Her parents sent her to Provident Hospital to become a registered nurse and while there; she met Roland Burris from southern Illinois. Former Senator Burris said he was working part-time in the Pharmacy.
â€œI told my boss, who was a pharmacist who was dating a nurse who happens to be her (Berleanâ€™s work sister) and I told my boss I wanted to meet some of those pretty nurses and they set it up to meet Berlean. I went over to the dormitory and she came downstairs.
â€œWe went into the lounge. I stood and said, â€˜Why do you want to meet me. She said, â€˜I didnâ€™t want to meet you. You wanted to meet meâ€™ and she got up and walked out. I had to try and do a little patching up so the next day I came back and met her the next day and we got off to a better start and the rest is history. We started dating,â€ he said. The couple has been married 50-years on December 23, 2011.
Burris, who was the first African American to be elected for a statewide office when he won the Illinois Comptroller seat in 1978. He went on to win the race for the Illinois Attorney General in 1990. served as Illinois Attorney General until 1995.
But, his problems began after Blagojevich, who Wednesday was sentenced to 14-years in federal prison, appointed him to replace then President-Elect Barack Obama.
Burris came under fire by the media and some political foes who claim he perjured himself when he testified before an Illinois House of Representative committee on whether he allegedly tried to negotiate on the price for Obamaâ€™s Senate seatâ€”a charge he adamantly denied.
After several investigations, it was a Republican Sangamon County Stateâ€™s Attorney who cleared his name. Burris had done nothing wrong.
But, the almost daily screeching headlines were traumatizing to Burris and his wife who kept a journal she turned into a book.
Burris said being a political wife is not easy. He spoke about the false allegations leveled against him. â€œI also did a lot of praying,â€ he said. â€œPeople were praying for us so there is power in prayer.â€
Referring to the media reports, Burris said, â€œThese people took misinformation that was printed in those newspapers and they tried to put me in jail. They tried to get me for perjury. No way in the worldâ€ was he guilty of that, he said.
When the smoke cleared, Sen. Burris said, â€œWhen the truth came out from the Republican stateâ€™s attorney in Sangamon County, the media didnâ€™t say anything. They didnâ€™t say that Roland Burris had not done anything wrong. They said we were still under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee but they were doing absolutely nothing because there was nothing there.
â€œThey created a great deal of consternation for my political career because I wanted to run for at least a term in the U.S. Senate but then they created all this debt for me and created such an atmosphere to pay off the debt let alone $10 million or $15 million to run for the office,â€ the senator said.
Asked if he is bitter, Burris said, â€œIâ€™m not bitter, no. It was just a learning experience. I chalk it all up to God directing me and setting the foundation to which way I was supposed to go. That was not for me other than to get the appointment. I had an opportunity to serve in the U.S. Senate. That is what I really cherish and will never forget,â€ he said.
The couple, who belong to Saint John Church Baptist, said faith has sustained them through their political storm. The song, â€œJust Stand,â€ sums up how the Burrisâ€™ got through the media bashing and false accusations.
â€œIf the mind keeps thinking youâ€™ve had enough but the heart keeps telling you donâ€™t give up who are we to be questioning, wondering what is what? Donâ€™t give up, through it all, just stand upâ€ and that is exactly what the Burrisâ€™ didâ€¦â€Just Standâ€ and let God work his miracles.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.
Photo Caption by Chinta Strausberg: Dr. Bearlean Miller Burris and former U.S. Senator Roland W. Burris.