Someone once said, “If you don’t know your history you are bound to repeat it.” The problem, some people who don’t know their history or don’t have a history, they don’t want others to have or own a history.
In the 1950s my wife Hattie Thomas Bell and her mother Elease Thomas along with her siblings were “Foot soldiers” in the early days of the Civil Rights’ movement in Orangeburg, S.C. Her father Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. was President of the local chapter of the NAACP. He was often seen holding down picket lines with no one else in sight, but his family. He was also seen leading members in the ministry in downtown boycotts or he could be seen collecting Hattie and her siblings from the city jail after putting his house up as collateral to bail them out along with other students who had been arrested. He was voted into the Black South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2007.
Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. He made Civil Rights a family affair. Photos: he is seen in downtown Orangeburg, asking for “Freedom Now”or collecting his jailbird children, L-R Loretta, Hattie T in shades and brother Reggie. The black women behind the black man, Mommy T and oldest child Hattie T.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was just a face in the crowd at an Orangeburg, S. C. NAACP rally organized by Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. in the early-50s.
I started the week Monday January 11, 2016 by deleting names from my extensive telephone Rolodex of friends who I am no longer in touch with and ones who were now deceased. I re-discovered two old friends, with whom I had not spoken to in at least five years. They were once Kids In Trouble board members, Santa’s Helpers and confidants, Ms. Betty Clegg and Ms. Rachel Kennedy (Masters Degree). They are now retired teachers and administrators in the DC Public Schools, both are like sisters I never had.
I had three other meetings that day, including stopping into visit with Rachel. When I called the house to say hello and wish her a Happy New Year, her friend Paul answered the phone. It was then I discovered she had a stroke on a cruise during the Christmas holidays and she was in the Washington Hospital Center in a coma. The next day I went to the hospital to see her, several days later I took Hattie to visit. Paul had told me on my first visit, she could hear what was going on around her. Hattie read to her (get well wish cards). Rachel responded by blinking her eyes—she made our day.
I had been surrounded by heroes all day, starting with Ms. Davis, and sitting with Ms. Kennedy. Her story is truly remarkable.
Her late husband Henry Kennedy, Sr. was like a big brother to me. He worked in the Post Office, and she was a DC school teacher. They put three children through college, two grads from Harvard (Henry Jr. and Randy), and daughter grad from Princeton. Angela was a classmate of of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Santa’s Helper Rachel Kennedy / Fox Trappe Santa’s Helpers, L-R son Randy and husband Henry Sr. on extreme right and Judge Henry Kennedy, Jr.
Her late husband Henry Kennedy, Sr. was like a big brother to me. Rachel lives two blocks from Coolidge HS. The day turned out to be a cross/country city run but at the end of the day it was worth it.
On Thursday January 14, 2016 I met with the Head of Cemeteries for the State of Maryland, Ms. Marilyn Davis and her lead investigator Ms. Brenda Rappozzi at Ft. Lincoln Cemetery in Prince Georges County. They had drove in from their home office in Baltimore, Maryland.
I have had a complain and issues with Ft. Lincoln Cemetery since 2007 related to missing crypts. Long story short—issue resolved. After ID of our crypt Ft. Lincoln agreed to place a fully engraved memorial marker on our crypt spot at no cost to us. Proving government can work when you have good people like Ms. Davis in place to cut through the Red Tape. She was very professional and a class act.
L-R Deborah Rappozzi, family friend Andrew Johnson, Hattie T, HB and Marilyn Davis
I also want to thank Prince Georges County Atty. Charles Kenney for referring me to Ms. Davis from the very beginning. She wasted no time in assigning Ms. Rappozzi her lead investigator to the case. I know we complain that government sometimes does not work for the people (I am guilty), but there are rare birds like Ms. Davis who are not sitting around on their hands. There is little doubt she is in the war zones of the struggle.
When I think of Baltimore I think of two other black hero women in the struggle, the Mayor and Prosecutor of the six police officers charged in the death of Freddy Gray.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Prosecutors Marilyn Mosby saved lives during the riots in Baltimore after the murder of Freddy Gray. If they had not stepped in and taken charge blood would have been flowing in the streets. If these cops are not found guilty it will be back to “Business as usual” in the black community as it relates to police brutality. There are some Good Cops in our communities who want to be Good Cops but the system is so embedded with Bad Cops, the Good Cops are intimidated to go along to get along. Thanks to the KKK like existent of the Thin Blue Line, Code of Silence and corrupt unions.
The most remarkable thing about Thursday January 14, 2015 was when the day had ended, I realized I had spoken to and had met with some of the most remarkable black women in my life time (Black American History). These hero athletes, politicians and pimps in the pulpit seen as trailblazers are often the blind leading the blind.
There were meetings with my ITT folks and a publisher at the I Hop Restaurant right down the road from the cemetery at 5 pm (full circle).
During the meeting at the I Hop, I looked around and I was sitting with three PhD’s, Dr. Catherine Williams (Publisher), Dr. Janice Mitchell (writer, educator and editor), Dr. Mattie Giles (Educator & Consultant) and my wife Hattie T (Masters Degree). I had called and spoken to old friends like Carolyn Blount, the Publisher and Editor of About Time Magazine in Rochester, NY.
Sitting in the company and talking to these black women of academia, I felt like the “Big Dummy” my college football coach Bighouse Gaines often called me back in the day when I decided to run my own pass patterns.
This was better than sitting in a meeting with Muhammad Ali, Red Auerbach, Jim Brown and some other All-Pro athletes. These black women are the real super-stars in the Game Called life. How many times have I said, “My heroes were black women? While listening to them chit-chat during dinner, I felt like 007 James Bond (spy) and an outsider. I wanted to turn on my video camera to capture some of “The common sense nuggets” they were discussing and then copy the conversation to politicians on Capitol Hill. I wanted them to hear some common sense solutions to many of our problems, but my battery was dead.
My heroes were much like these black women, they could not kick a football 60 yards in the air, shoot a jump shot or hit a baseball out of the stadium, but they were Super-Stars in the Game Called Life, meet Grandma Bell and Mommy B.
Amy Tyler Bell (aka Grandma Bell) and her crew of grands and Mattie Bell (aka Mommy B) and her boys and younger brother Tyrik (aka Puddin, Billy, William).
Dr. Janice Mitchell is not only an educator and editor, but she also holds a Black Belt in the martial arts and sits on the board of the oldest black martial arts organization in the World, Simba Da Jang. Her late husband Scotty Mitchell, also held a black belt and was a pillar in the community when it came to Civil Rights.
Seated: Simba Da Jang founders 10th Degree Black Belts, Furman Marshall (also founder of Black Ski) and Phil Cunningham. In November 2015 I was honored to be named the first civilian to sit on the Advisory Board of the organization. Dr. Janice Mitchell is standing directly behind me. My only belt was the one I was wearing.
Dr. Catherine Williams is President and CEO of STEPS, LLC. Her academic credentials include; a Bachelor’s degree in French from Norfolk State University (Norfolk, VA); a Masters in Urban Administration from Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA); Masters of Divinity from Virginia Union University, School of Theology (Richond, VA). and a Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of Georgia (Athens, GA). After completing graduate school, she maintained dual careers, college professor (Hampton University) and owner of a consulting business. She was CEO and President of Institute for Academic Coaching and Counseling which provided tutoring, mentoring, self-esteem, karate and parenting programs for inner-city youth and adults.
Dr. Mattie Giles received her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. She served as a member on the faculty of the University of the District of Columbia for 35 years. She was the Chairperson of the DC Regulatory Commission serving two term appointments, one each by by Mayor Marion Barry and Mayor Anthony Williams. She said one of her proudest moments during the Civil Rights movement was participating in The March on Washington in 1963. Dr. Giles volunteered as a Big Sister for the Little Sisters in the Washington metropolitan area and was a Santa’s Helper for Kids In Trouble, Inc.
In a hour long telephone conversation with Carolyn Blount (spent mostly with her husband Jim talking sports) we tried to catch up and thank God that we were still in this Game of Life. About Time Magazine is truly an amazing story in media history. Only God knows how this magazine and this husband and wife team have held on operating with a year to year shoestring budget and broken promises.
Jim and Carolyn Blunt publishers of About Time Magazine were honored with The Kids In Trouble Life Time Achievement Award.
I closed out week (Saturday) in the company of another remarkable Black Woman, Ms. Virginia Ali. Her and husband the late Ben Ali found the World famous Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC in 1958.
The brain trust behind the success of Ben’s Chili Bowl, CEO son Kamal Ali and matriarch Virginia Ali. The University of Stanford basketball team and native Washingtonians, head coach Johnny Dawkins and Assistant coach Mookie Payne stop by the Chili Bowl for a hot dog on the way to Europe during a school break.
I am the Historian for Ben’s Chili Bowl, as a fourth generation Washingtonian, I have lived the history of the U Street, NW corridor, once known as “Black Broadway!” The Chili Bowl now has 7 locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia (DMV).
All these great black women I was meeting with led me into the January birthday celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King and leading me into the Black History Month of February. We should be celebrating Black History 365 days of the year.
Hattie and I finally dragged our selves back home around 8 pm. Black Women, thanks for all that you do and try to do for others. Thanks for keeping hope alive and trying to hold up black men. God bless.
Note Worthy: We must not forget the great Dr. Frances Cress Welsing who died two weeks ago even though major media outlets like the Washington Post would like for us to. She was the forerunner in modern day black history who called a spade a spade when came to exposing the genetic components of racism in American. Her memorial services has been removed from Howard University’s Crampton Auditorium (thank God). It was there the powers-to-be refused to renew her tenure as a professor in 1971 after the papers she wrote on racism where nationally recognized. The services will now be held the same date but a different place. Mark on your calendar, Saturday January 23, 2016 at Metropolitan AM & E Church located at 15th and M Streets, NW from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm. Please come out to honor this hero in the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr. Al-Tony Gilmore and I listen as Dr. Welsing discuss racism in America on Inside Sports.