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A Black Journey in Portland, Oregon

A Black Journey in Portland, Oregon

Another post on BlackAngryWomen.com

My father was a Black man who wore his Blackness both outwardly and inwardly.  Daddy took great pleasure and satisfaction in being Black and he actively supported and worked towards the betterment of Black people throughout the diaspora.  Daddy did not waste time in conversation with Whites regarding racism.  Daddy simply stated a fact and ‘allowed’ Whites to determine whether or not the racial ‘issue’ had to go to a physical level….

A ‘good’ example of my father’s racial character (c.1950s) came shortly after he went to play golf on a previously all-White golf course in Portland, Oregon.  When confronted on the course by a mob-mentality group of White men intent on doing my father physical harm, Daddy stood his ground and refused to leave.  And, when the ‘mob’ moved to advance on my ‘Black’ father, Daddy swiftly pulled an iron from his golf bag and swung it around his head as he exclaimed to all that the ‘first one in is dead….’  Needless to say, the mob quickly dispersed and Daddy continued his game of golf without further interruption.

As a result of my father’s refusal to barter his freedom to ‘enjoy’ his game of golf, that previously all-White Rose City Golf Course became my father’s ‘second home’.  Daddy continued to regularly play golf on that course.  And, Daddy introduced other Blacks to the game and the course and the money that could be made there.

My father was always ‘aware’ of race.  He knew firsthand that White folk posed a never-ending danger to Black folk and Daddy schooled me – and other Blacks — accordingly.

If there ever was a hero on earth, it was my father.  Daddy did not kowtow to White folk nor did my father ‘allow’ Whites to joke about race or racial issues in his presence.

Amongst my fondest memories, as a child, was my daddy reciting the poetry of ‘Black’ Paul Laurence Dunbar in our home – a practice I continued with my own children and others.  I also remember both the respect and the sadness my father expressed when he spoke in ‘private’ detail relative to ‘Black’ Paul Robeson….

My father was a man of many many talents.  Along with speaking Creek, Latin, Spanish, and English, my father built his own printing press for use in the multiple businesses he started.  Daddy was an adept accountant, mover, electrician, plumber, painter, writer, golfer, and more.

Daddy’s morning routine included running a distance of 10+ miles, exercising outside our house, a cold shower, preparing breakfast for our family, singing, and often playing our family piano.  Daddy regularly managed all of the above before going to work or before going to play an AM round of golf on the golf course we nicknamed Daddy’s “second home” – Rose City Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.

My ‘Black’ father was a man who especially enjoyed the cold.  He played golf all year round — ice and snow did not deter him or his enthusiasm.  In fact, Daddy took great pleasure in playing golf during the winter weather when few, if any, White golfers were on the course.  In relatively short time, Daddy developed and established an annual golf tournament which he named the “Iceberg Open” at Rose City Golf Course in Portland, Oregon.

Under my father’s direction, I handled much of the advertising end (including write-ups and more).   All of the ‘Iceberg Open’ details – including rules, names, categories, scoring, payouts, etc. came from my father’s mind and creativity.   Following the c.3 day event, Daddy and I collaborated in writing up and printing the results and news pieces for the media.  As expected by my dad, the annual ‘Iceberg Open’ Golf Tournament was a fun and challenging success.

Integration at Portland’s Rose City Golf Course was not a smooth process for my father or the other Blacks he soon brought with him to the course.  Before steering other Blacks towards Rose City and the game of golf, Daddy schooled many on the reality of racism.  Daddy admonished all of us to be aware and prepared.  Daddy exclaimed that ‘a Black man knows better than to call the police in a dispute with a White man.  A Black man knows to handle the problem himself….’

There were many instances of racism at Rose City Golf Course, however, we Blacks handled the problems swiftly and effectively for the most part.  And, there was a silent agreement amongst all of the golfers that ‘what happens at Rose City Golf Course, stays in-house’.  I am reminded of an incident that required a Black golfer to pull a machete from his golf bag.  The Black golfer was playing golf with three White golfers and the Black golfer was ‘winning’.  Following the machete incident, that game of golf continued and the Black golfer won.  That was just one of the many racial incidents that occurred on the course at Rose City Golf Course.

Daddy never really ‘liked’ working under the control of others who dictated commands.  Accordingly, Daddy quickly began his own business which incorporated a variety of ventures.  Daddy, with overstanding and without restraint, provided jobs to Black folk.  Under my father’s tutelage, I learned such skills as writing, accounting, scheduling, organizing, management, typing, language, carpentry, pricing, racial and human relations, and more.  Daddy also advised that it is often better for me to do something than to walk away wishing that I had done something….

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Black Winners and Studies

Secretive and sensitive information was often anonymously relayed to me during my days and nights in the 1960s and 1970s Black Movement.  Whether or not the information was factual or a ploy, I know not.  However, I was faced with the task of evaluating the info and ‘wisely’ handling or not handling it.

Stokely ‘Black Power’ Carmichael (lka Kwame Ture) would say that living for your people will prove to be more difficult than dying for your people.  He explained that anyone can die.  Stokely’s question to me was:  Can you live for your people?

The emotional upheaval was heavy for yours truly.  I saw many of the brothers and sisters who gave and gave and gave literally ‘lose it’ behind their ever-reaching desire to bring about righteousness in America.  America was a cesspool of racism and Whites played that ‘race card’ with ease.  Whites openly argued that nothing-of-worth existed without White validation or White discovery.

Whites equated words like black and dark as negatives while equating words like white and light as positives.  Whites did not like Black people’s use of the word ‘Black’ in describing ourselves.  And, Whites were made uncomfortable when ‘Black’ was linked with the word ‘Power’.  Whites were sent off-kilter by Black men and Black women who rejected being called “girl” and “boy”.  A sister who wore a natural was looked upon with suspicion by Whites who felt it was a sting and a rejection of White values and limits.

Ralph Featherstone (Feather) — a young Black man in the ‘Movement’ — would often and regularly ask me if there was a ‘contradiction in a sister, clad in a mini-skirt, wearing a natural’.  Sadly, Feather died in a car bomb explosion before I ever had the insight or the wherewithal to answer his question.  For a myriad of reasons, Feather’s death – like many others’ — will likely remain etched in my memory forever….

We in the ‘Movement’ realized the seriousness of winning.  We knew that Black people needed to see us win.  Stokely emphasized that our people needed to see us win – regardless of the costs.

There was a real disconnect between Washington, DC’s ‘Black’ Howard University and the Black community of DC.  As we formed and organized the ‘original’ DC Black United Front (the Front), one of the many issues we confronted was the separation of Howard students from the community.  Folk in the community said that the Howard students thought they were ‘better than and different from’  the Blacks in the community.  They spoke of how the students shunned the community and rarely—if ever – lifted a finger to help the community.

In response to the Howard University ‘problem’, we in the Front knew we had to act.  After careful deliberation and strategizing, the Front decided to push for student involvement in the community as well as a Black studies program at the school.  We reached out to ‘active’ Howard students and they reached out to us.

We knew that administrators of Howard University would be most resistant to community involvement.  And, we knew that the strongest possible resistance would come from ‘Black’ Howard University’s administration to formulating a Black studies program at the school.  But, we were determined and, as Stokely explained:  When Howard falls, the other universities and colleges will prove to be ‘mickey mouse’ to us who mean ‘business’.

Stokely’s assessment and familiarity with Howard University was right-on-target.  Active resistance was employed by the University and the school ‘forced’ its students to organize sit-ins and more.  Eventually, Howard University’s administration responded by having its students tear gassed, etc. and the campus was soon ablaze in fire.  Vehicles were overturned and the campus appeared as a ‘war zone’.  In the end, however, the students and community won as Howard University agreed to a Black studies program and more….

Following Howard University’s agreement to institute Black studies, the DC Front sent letters to other colleges and universities reminding them of ‘what had gone down at Howard’….  Needless to say, the response received from other schools was overwhelmingly positive and inviting….  Thus, the advent of Black studies on campuses throughout America resulted from the blood and sweat of both the Black community and Howard’s Black students.

Stokely was never really comfortable with the label “leader”.  He saw himself as a community organizer and often spoke of himself in that manner.  In private and intimate conversations with me, Stokely shunned the idea of being referred to as a Black ‘leader’.

It is interesting that Stokely, Marion Barry, Rev. David Eaton, and so many of us came together in DC at a particular time to help in organizing and formulating a Movement that brought such impactful racial change to America.  How many people know that Stokely used to teach Sunday school to children, Marion studied Chemistry in school, etc.?  Each of us – and others — stepped away from that which was comfortable in order to fight the good fight.  What we accomplished was nothing short of a miracle.  We willingly gave our lives and our dreams to the ‘Movement’….

Black folk in the 1960-1970’s Black Movement knew each other.  It did not matter whether the organizers – or ‘leaders’ as some chose to be called – were from California; New York; Oregon; DC; Philadelphia; Atlanta; or NewArk, New Jersey….  We soon got to know each other as a result of our ‘Black’ activism.

I remember my first time meeting Stokely ‘Black Power’ Carmichael.  The DC head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (lka Student National Coordinating Committee) vouched for me, and Stokely and I immediately became fast friends and more.  Although I had spoken to David Eaton on numerous occasions via phone, I well remember the first time we met.  David and I, likewise, formed a fast and intimate friendship and more.  Often, we were involved in ‘political’ trips together and I became a part of his ‘family’.  I recall the first time I met Lester McKinney, Dick Jones, H. Rap Brown, Imamu Baraka, Malauna Ron Karenga, Jesse ‘the Country Preacher’ Jackson, and so many many others.

I learned a lot before I ever had the privilege of meeting particular people in the Movement.  I learned a lot while working with and for specific folks in and out of the Movement.  And, I have learned a lot since.  When I was but a child, my father told me that I would soon learn that the more I learn, the more I will grow to realize how ‘little’ I actually do know.  My Daddy was right!

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Black Dues and Hunger in America

Knowledge of the past can help us to avoid repeating the mistakes as we move forward.

It seems that life has always been about ‘purpose’ for me.  I have tried to be responsible and loyal while allowing myself the freedom to make mistakes.  While I was but a young child, my father told me that ‘it is better to do something than to walk away and later wish you had done something’.  That is one of the mantras in my arsenal.

While working with the Citizens Advocate Center in DC, I found myself in need of a secretary.   There were deadlines to meet and the Hunger In America report, which I was charged with coordinating, was a project of immense importance.  I quickly put the ‘word’ out that the Center was hiring.

After interviewing several Black prospective applicants, I went back into my office to make that all-important decision as to who I would hire.  While mulling over my choices, a rather shy looking young Black woman entered our offices.  I was summoned to the greeting area to meet and possibly interview the young woman for the secretarial position.  Although the lady had arrived late for her interview, I chose to hear her story.

The sister was in her twenties and she had dropped out of high school as a tenth grader.  She expressed that she did NOT know how to type, etc.  In fact, she was convinced that she would not be hired for the job because of her lack of secretarial skills and more.  As tears began to fill her eyes, she fidgeted with her clothes and nervously told me that she knew she should not have showed up for the interview and she apologized for taking up my time.

I quickly handed the young sister a box of Kleenex and got her a soft drink and told her that I had ‘all the time in the world to hear her story’.  After getting as much information as I could from the young woman, I told her that she was hired.  I expressed that her job as my secretary would be to ‘return to school’.  I expressed that she would learn how to file, how to type, English and more while working as my secretary.  As she continued to cry, I told her that she could start that same day or the next day – it was up to her!  And, as a welcome to the job, I handed her money from my purse.

The Executive Director of the Citizens Advocate Center was Edgar S. Cahn – a Jewish attorney.  Attorney Cahn was not initially pleased with my hire, however, after I explained my ‘reasons’, he quickly jumped on board to help.

The young woman I hired was in search of her ‘family’.   Her nine brothers and sisters — all children — had been removed from her care years prior by social workers who discovered the circumstance of their living conditions.  The young woman’s parents were both deceased and the woman had biological children of her own to support.  The woman feared that even her own biological children would be taken away by social workers because the place they were staying in was uninhabitable.

Quickly, I began making phone calls and sending out ‘feelers’ in an attempt to locate the young woman’s siblings.  Attorneys handled the legal turf as Black community activists and others stepped in with support and more.  Within a matter of weeks, we had the entire ‘clan’ together and we secured a large home in Northwest DC for the young woman and her ‘family’.  We furnished the place (two refrigerators were donated) and went shopping for clothing, groceries, and other items needed for their ‘home’.  Our ‘no-walls’ support for the family continued….

Later, I hired another employee for the Center and that sister assisted in putting together a thorough ‘first-ever’ report on Hunger In America.  To her surprise, I made a conscious decision to credit her on the final report.

BlackParentSpeaks contends that God provides us with countless opportunities to ‘do the right thing’ and to pay our dues.  In the Movement, some of us would sometimes quip that we were ‘over’paying our dues and paying the dues for all of us.  And, yes, I do know that there is an African proverb that states ‘behind jest is sometimes seriousness….’

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Black Purpose and 2014 New Year

There are times when each of us should take leave of ‘self’ in order to truly see.  Our lives do have purpose even if we know not the purpose.  Have a useful, purposeful, and committed 2014 New Year.

In my thirst to learn and grow, I listen to what people say and I hear some things that are unsaid by others.  I see that which is oft-times unseen and I tap into my ancestors for overstanding.  I allow myself to hear and feel as I welcome and seek the wisdom that comes with Black consciousness.

We who are Black must be grounded in who we are.  The trappings of temptation abound and many of us wake up one night to discover that we, too, are lost in lascivious lifestyles that are void of purpose and commitment – void of Blackness.

Do not idolize or put on a pedestal any man, woman, or child.  None of us is perfect.  We are human and we are all capable of doing wrong and making mistakes.  Some of our mistakes and wrongs afford us and others additional opportunities to learn and grow.

Material possessions do not make any of us better than others.  Attributes that matter include involvement in and supporting us who give of ourselves for the betterment of future generations.

We who are Black must look at accountability and we must keep it relevant to who we ‘really’ are and what we should be about….  Excuses and apologies are not attractive; we must ‘keep it real’!

Offers to compromise our Blackness and to sell-out our fellow Blacks have been around for a long time.  The lures include money, sex, drugs, the facade of power, authority, stardom, celebrity status, a ‘position’ – you name it, the lures are plentiful.  Know that temptation can be a very powerful magnet.

So, we who are Black must be aware.  We must periodically give ourselves a self-constructed litmus test.  We must not get so caught up in ourselves that we become arrogant and think we are above temptation.  Strength demands awareness.  And, we must remember that ‘as long as there is breath, there is hope’.   We must love each other in spite of our mistakes.  Again, ‘as long as there is breath, there is hope’.  Undying Love for Black People!

My litmus test measures who I am.  And, it measures how far I have – or have not — progressed along the line of Black commitment.  As pointed out in an earlier post:  ‘many are called, few are chosen’….  I truly believe that I was ‘chosen’ and my life had — and continues to have — ‘purpose’.

I am in awe at the force that brought the likes of Marion Barry, Rev. David Eaton, Stokely ‘Black Power’ Carmichael (lka Kwame Ture), KoKo Hughes, Chuck Stone, Francis Welsing, Calvin Rolark, Betty Diggs, myself, and so many others together in DC during the 1960s.  Our commitment and work ignited a ‘Black’ force that reverberated throughout the world.  So many things were accomplished and we truly did ‘raise the bar’.  Many many people have benefitted as a result of the things we did and the actions that we took to bring about real change for Black people and all people.

In remembering the past, I think about Martin (Dr. King) and his ‘side’ trip to DC to speak with some of us before he returned to Memphis.  I think about Martin’s words – which I recorded — questioning whether or not White folk, in fact, had a conscience.  I think about the fact that Martin and I both knew that he would likely never return from Memphis and I remember that he was okay with whatever the future held for him.  I remember our talk and I remember that the ‘word’ was out that Martin would be killed if he returned to Memphis….

There are a lot of stories yet to be told.  Fact is, however, most of the stories from the 1960s and 1970s Black Movement will remain untold….

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FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List

My most-intimate life in the Black ‘Movement’ of the 1960s and 1970s was overfilled with purpose and action, learning and growth, responsibility and commitment, tears and more tears….

Many many many unnamed Blacks were ‘intimately’ involved in the ‘Movement’.  This is dedicated to the memory of one such brother.

Media reports of the c.1973 death of a young brother at the hands of law enforcement in New York quickly became yesterday’s news as other stories-of-interest gripped media attention.  There is a story beyond media reports.

Mace Brown was a victim of – and a survivor of — racism up to the time of his death.  Although I only had the privilege of knowing Mace Brown briefly, he had the keys to my home as many in the ‘Movement’ did.

Brother Brown was a Black man in search of answers and solutions.  I met brother Mace Brown at one of the many conventions, conferences, or meetings I attended and/or helped organize.  And, as I often did, I gave Mace a key to my home so that he would have a place to stay whenever he found himself in DC.

Mace Brown – a Black man involved in the ‘Movement’ – was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List and killed by Law Enforcement c.1973 in New York.  Some rumors equated ‘Black’ Mace Brown with ‘Robin Hood’….

Although I never knew the side of Mace Brown reported in the media reports, I publicly thank him for his involvement and encouragement and ‘giving’ spirit.  The Mace Brown I knew was humble, respectful, and a brother who did what he was able to do to further the cause of righteousness as he grew.

Happy Kwanzaa and Undying love for Black people!

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Don’t Forget Our Reparations!

I am today reminded of ‘Black and Beautiful’ Queen Mother Moore!  I first had the privilege of meeting Queen Mother Moore during the 1960s.  Queen Mother Moore was a strong and determined Black elder – a woman who urged us Blacks in the ‘Movement’ to never forget our reparations.  It seemed that almost always after a Black convention or conference I attended, there would stand Queen Mother Moore waiting in the exitway to give me a big hug, embrace, and encouragement.  Queen Mother Moore ALWAYS exhorted me to not compromise our fight for righteousness.  And, Queen Mother Moore always spoke her famous words to me “Don’t forget our reparations”.

Queen Mother Moore was one of the many Black women who supported, encouraged, and lived the Black ‘Movement’.  She inspired me to always remember and to never forget – no matter the pressures and/or inducements to do otherwise.

As I share these words and memories with you, I reach beyond myself to publicly thank Queen Mother Moore and so many many other Black women who lovingly gave and continue to give of themselves.  They – and yours truly — were some of the Black sisters who fought and continue to fight for righteousness.  I am convinced that my life in the ‘Movement’ was and is deliberate and intended – ‘many are called, few are chosen’….

Be Aware!

A trend has developed and is developing that is unsettling at best.  The trend is to have a Black man with White women introduce and present race-related talks and training sessions.  The audience is almost always White or majority-White.  The Black man and White women team receives compensation for enabling the myth that particular Whites are ‘for real’ in their search for knowledge, growth, and racial healing.  Such presentations and discussions are designed to make Whites comfortable … plain and simple.  And, seldom — if ever — does anything significant change following such trainings and presentations.

The Black man with White women presentations almost always applaud those Whites present for their courage in turning out to engage in the ‘most-difficult’ discussion relative to race and racism in America….  The Black man and White women teams express that their presentations are NOT about blame or guilt.  They warn against loud voices (i.e. genuine emotion that could come from any Blacks present in the audience) and urge ‘civil’ dialogue and conversation.

Give me a break!

Applauding Whites for their courage relative to racism is akin to thanking a White arsonist for burning down ‘only’ seven hundred and three Black-occupied homes as opposed to seven hundred and four!  It is akin to thanking a White man for stabbing a 90-year-old Black woman eighty-seven times and not stabbing the woman eighty-eight times.  It is akin to thanking a White person for setting off a bomb at the Boston Marathon rather than setting off the bomb at the Pentagon near Washington, DC!

Reality is that Whites are both historically and currently guilty of racism.  Reality is that Blacks were and are the victims of White racism.  Reality is that Whites were and are the perpetrators of racism.  Reality is that White folk owe Black folk for 400 years of slavery and more….  Fact is that Whites will forever be faced with their own guilt and inhumane ways until they repent-in-earnest and atone.  Blacks are beyond entitled to reparations.  And, until Whites atone for their sins against Black people, Whites will continue on their journey towards hell.

Any ‘real’ attempt at Black and White racial healing in America must include reparations for America’s Blacks.  Individual Whites have the obligation and calling to ‘give’ as able and when able if they truly seek and desire racial healing, peace, and salvation.  The fact is that Whites will continue to condemn themselves and their progeny to perpetual guilt and condemnation as long as they ignore and dismiss their humongous debt to Black folk.  The curse that White folk function under will remain until they do that which is called for, that which is just, that which is right.  Know that the ‘sins of one generation follows the next and generations to come’.

White folk must begin the process of action with regards to reparations.  White folk can start by establishing a Reparations Body-of-Purpose, a body with the sole (soul) ‘initial’ mission of pressuring, influencing, and persuading the US government and US monopolies to pay reparations to America’s Black populace.  America’s Blacks are due reparations and, as a side note, each of us Blacks has the individual right to do with any and all cash payments as each of us chooses!

Do I expect Whites to eventually move in the direction of doing the right thing – to move in the direction of reparations for Black people?  Yes.  Do I expect to receive any of the reparations due me and mine in my lifetime?  No.

‘Don’t forget our reparations’.

Happy Kwanzaa!

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Undying love for Black people!

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