As a member of THE HISTORY MAKERS.COM and to be more specific, concerning the content of my presentation, I am sharing this outline with you as it was suggested to those of us who participated in our back to school program this past year.
We incorporate the word COMMIT into our preparation. There were moments when we asked the students to commit to a particular idea or goal by a show of hands or by standing. For instance, how many of you have made a commitment to complete your education? This would then be followed by words of praise and encouragement.
This would be followed by stories about my life that would provoke and encourage class discussion and participation. The following is a synopsis of several experiences that would be shared:
What was I like as a child?
“I was a well-mannered kid. I was a bit shy and mostly a dreamer. I dreamed of faraway places and strange people. I dreamed of travelling the world and having many adventures. I dreamed of someday returning to Chicago, settling down, getting married, becoming a father of maybe a baby or two and writing books of my life adventures.”
A time when we persevered through hardship
I was born during the depression in 1933. Times were hard, I guess we were poor. But I never knew or felt that because there was always food and places to live. I come from a very large family so we were never homeless.
How belonging to particular communities helped you succeed
Being born in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood where just about everyone was African American, I saw many famous people like, Joe Louis, Jessie Owens and all the popular musicians, movie stars and other well know African Americans of the times. Seeing other people that looked like me succeed helped to motivate me and made me look past my personal circumstance.
Why education is and will always be important. Also what/who positively influenced my life:
The most influential persons in my early childhood were my mother, father, grandfather and uncles. Also, there was a Mr. Ross. It was he and my grandfather (who was a slave the first 12 years of his life) that awakened my desire to travel. Mr. Ross was a Pullman Porter and rented a room in one of my uncle’s rooming houses. Upon his return to Chicago from his train trips, he would tell us stories of his travels and the 26 states he had traveled to and some of the difficulties he had to endure, simply because he was a black man.
Challenges faced by students today, social media, crime relationships, family life, etc.
The most difficult time in my life was the year I served in Korea as a Combat Infantryman (Rifleman) on the frontline. It was a nightmare and something I would never wish upon anyone. While the military is necessary, wars should be the last result. Wars are nothing like those made in Hollywood. I have yet to see a movie that comes close to the reality of war.
There were many racist problems we African Americans dealt with in order to prove we were as good and in many cases even better soldiers than those antagonizing us. As a matter of fact, we are the only race of people that have to fight, in order to fight and serve our country as soldiers. A fact you guys don’t have to deal with. That is why we did it. We wanted to make life better for you and our children of the future. There were many days I would remind myself of my Commitment and promised myself that only death would prevent me from achieving my goal as a soldier and a man.
So, I am very thankful for my military experiences, for instilling the discipline and worldly outlook that enabled me to live such and adventurous life. It gave me the courage to commit to and do the things I was told as youth, that I couldn’t do simply because I was black. And so far, I have done it all.
On that note I will sign off thanking everyone for listening and hopefully take some questions.