Tuesday, May 6, 2014

three heroes

Three Champions…
I have often thought if I could meet three people in history or present day people and have lunch with them, who would they be? It could be any three people in the world either living or passed away. I have decided they would be three champions of human rights, three visionaries, three people who wanted to give full rights to Black people. They are: Robert F. Kennedy, Winnie Mandela and Malcolm X.

Robert F. Kennedy I would want to thank him for giving his life to the cause. For wanting to see the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. become a reality and for working tirelessly for his entire life towards justice, freedom and equality for ALL Americans, but especially for what he wanted to see for and for what he did for the oppressed, the underserved and the left out. He had a unique way of listening and sharing his feelings that made him a Kennedy and made him unique among men. I have tried to imagine what his first two years in office would have been like if an assassins bullets had not cut short his Presidential ambitions. (see Chapter 17 for the movie idea.) It was with a heavy heart that I read the cover story of the Philadelphia Daily News when I was just a boy of 12 that day in June, 1968 that Robert was taken away from us. I knew something big and horrible had happened. I have often wondered what it must have been like to have to perform the autopsy on him just days after he had been so mercilessly murdered. The person’s hands must have been shaking knowing that the entire country was in such deep morning just five years after President John F. Kennedy was also assassinated. The country had had enough and was about to pop. I mean really explode. It was so shortly after Martin had been laid to rest. There was still turmoil in a country—our country—that had been gripped with such pain. How could GOD have done this to us again? Didn’t GOD know the dreams of little children were instantly made nightmares? How could we have been so careless to allow such a terrible and tragic thing to have happened again? I could not understand, at age 12, how people could be so cruel and heartless to snuff out millions of people’s dreams with the simple firepower of a gun. I want to have lunch with Robert to ask him what he would have done had he lived. What was on his agenda and what would he have us do now? I want to look into his bright Kennedy eyes and tell him how much his vision of the world was appreciated and how much his memory is cherished. How people have dedicated their entire lives to keeping his Dream & Doctor King’s Dream alive. I would want to make sure he knows that his children have lived on to take his vision and work forward--even in his death--and that there are millions of people throughout the world who still try and work for a better world. The vision was so perfectly shaped visually during his historic 1968 campaign for the United States Presidency. Robert lives on in our hearts and minds and will never be forgotten as a positive force for change, a legislative hero and a man who took the oppressed and down trodden under his wing.

While I never had lunch with Winnie Mandela, I did have the golden opportunity to meet with her in a private 15 minute discussion when I traveled to South Africa in the year 2000. I attended the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. She walked in with grace and courage at one of the work sessions and received a standing ovation. Shortly after that she came to a table where I was sitting and we talked for a few cherished moments. I immediately asked how she was doing and let her know what an honor it was to meet her—the woman who waited for Nelson to be released from jail for over 25 years. She put us all to shame. How can we be so impatient when one woman such as she waited for all those years, dedicating her life against the Apartheid system that was responsible for killing, maiming and destroying thousands upon thousands of lives in her beautiful Native Land? As I work now at a job that is tiring and labor oriented and has low pay, I remember Winnie and take her message with me to work each day, even though I might not mention her by name. She is for the rule of decency. She is for her people having needed land and land rights, education, basic human rights, basic human needs such as housing and jobs. She has spent years speaking out against oppression, racial hatred and intolerance. She is a leader among leaders who I would love to interview and break bread with. But her desire to improve the quality of life for African people reaches across the continent of Africa and creeps into the Board rooms and bed rooms of North America and around the globe. But are people listening? Maybe someday they will. Maybe they will have to listen because the people of the world will just stop working, stop eating and stop everything until they do and bring about full employment, close the sweat shops, and tear down the walls of greed, hatred and disrespect of women.  Maybe someday I will again meet this Queen of Africa and let her know that her efforts have NOT gone unnoticed and that her vision will one day be a reality—even if it takes another generation or two.  GOD Bless you Winnie. Hold fast to your dreams and vision for hope is not lost for this planet.

Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) held a name which became synonymous with radical Black thought, especially after his tragic assassination in 1965. His break with the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad and his historic trip to Mecca is well documented and a part of Black history. Malcolm never had any sons, but I can tell you he has millions of sons in spirit, for I am one of them. His struggle to see the Black man and Black woman become whole and end their many, many years of suffering under White domination and White oppression are also well documented and have had an enormous impact on bettering Black people. We learned from Malcolm X to hold our heads high, speak up and be proud of our rich legacy, our traditions, our African languages, heritage and culture. I was only going on nine years of age when Malcolm was felled by assassin’s bullets in Harlem, New York so I still want questions answered and need some guidance. I would love to know where Malcolm saw our struggle going before he was killed and what he saw as a role for African Presidents and how to best encompass that role for our best future. Malcolm has left us with some beautiful & highly intelligent daughters who have carried on some of his work by writing and speaking out on some of the important issues of the day. If I could have lunch with Malcolm I would ask him what his concept of Pan-Africanism was and how it can and should be applied to everyday life in North America for African Americans. How do we boil down his ideas into something our youth can consume in this fast-paced, video& video game-dominated world we live in? (This is especially a question or our Black males.) How do progressive & radical ideas compete against the video games, BLACKBUSTER movies with their showy special effects and all the Rap Music, sports on TV, high fashion label garments and the desire for the Bling Bling lifestyle? How do we explain to our youth—and really the rest of our people--that having a strong Black intellectual core can be and most likely is always more important than attaining all these material items? I would bet my bottom dollar that Malcolm X would have an answer for all those questions that would move our movement ahead greatly. Thankfully we can read about Malcolm X and discover some of the answers. Also: Spike Lee was good enough to leave us with a film on the Brother that at least depicts some of his life story and what his ideas were. I would really love an interview with the late Malcolm X.

These two gentlemen (Malcolm X and Robert F. Kennedy) and the one still surviving lady (Winnie Mandela) have helped shape some of my ideas of what it means to be a progressive and a politically active, humane & caring Black person in North American today. They have helped me see that even as we pass on, our work can and should go on with and through others, for as I said at the beginning of this book, our struggle is a marathon, not a sprint and the piton may have to be handed down for another hundred years or more before we all reach our destiny. And what is our destiny? It is reaching some of the things that many other racial groups want for themselves such as: self growth with dignity and respect; racial pride and decency; cultural awareness; political & economic power; self determination; respect from other racial groups & ourselves; good wages with good living standards for all who can work; access to and achievement of solid educations for all who want them and an end to war as a viable option for mankind. I don’t think Winnie, Robert and Malcolm would think this is too much to ask for, strive for and achieve over the next five to thirty years.

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