But That Was In 1989


Don Thomas

     In just eleven years most of us will be alive to see a century rollover. The kind of celebration such an occurrence could inspire is beyond imagination. The time is now and the place is here, however, for Black Americans to start accumulating things about which to celebrate on December 31, 1999. Here is my list: Total racial equality, black on black crime substantially reduced, illegal drugs becoming a non-issue, black unity, ghetto environment enhancement, increased black matrimony, reduced black teen-pregnancy, improved black male image, increased black entrepreneurs, more realization by black youth that education is the only real vehicle to success, more realization by black youth that honesty and integrity is greater than life, that individual are important, that the family is more important, that the race is still more important, that it takes every black to help give truth to the slogan “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL,” that Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, Sojourner Truth, Bill Cosby, Mary McCleod Bethune, Joe Clark, Wyvetter Younge, Jesse Jackson, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Thurgood Marshall, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Leonine Price, Andy Young, Lena Horne, George Washington Carver, Katherine Dunham, Magic Johnson, Scotia Calhaun, Bob Gibson and countless thousands of Black Americans personify excellence and glorify our people, that racial pride is appropriate, that being born black is a gift and not the shaft, that in a very short time in terms of history, the black race has arrived.

In this country today, anything is possible. Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” is featured in December’s People Magazine. He is currently a very rich man, but in the featured article, Alex refers to two sardine cans and eighteen cents which he had framed to remind him of how close he came to being hungry. Alex Haley was over fifty when “Roots” became a hit, so it’s never too late for life’s fortune to smile on you. The key is to be persistent in pursuit of your goals. The magic could happen for you at any moment of any day. For every Black American who achieves an honorable goal, the race is uplifted, therefore, it is your duty, for your sake and that of the race to pursue honorable goals. For the sake of our slave predecessors who endured three hundred years of total degradation, every Black American should become self-obligated to advance the cause. By doing so, one can only advance himself. Eighty percent of all crooks end up in jail. The remaining twenty percent seldom reach age fifty. Ninety-nine percent of all who pursue excellence and honorable goals realize long term success. Why then is it so difficult to choose the right directions? Low self-esteem plays a major role. The Thinking that “I can’t,” and that “I’ll never be able to,” is defeating too many young blacks. In a lifetime, the only success many have seen up close is drug peddling. For these youth, a look at our positive role models could provide a better answer. These people are real. Most came from humble beginnings; all enjoy the good life this country offers.

DIALOGUE, TWO BLACK MEN DECEMBER 31, 1999: “Charles, do you realize how far we have come in the past ten years? That in just twenty-one days the first Black President will be inaugurated”? “Hell, Herman, I knew that would happen. I’ve known it for a long time now. Even Don Thomas said it in the METRO STAR. But that was years ago, as I recall, that was in 1989.”

*Footnote: Don Thomas, born Donald Ray Thomas 1936-1989 published a weekly commentary for the Metro Star, a weekly black newspaper published in East St. Louis from 1988 to 1992 by this blogger. He attained an Associate Degree in Business Administration from State Community College in East St. Louis and furthered his education at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville with the completion of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. Because of his sharp mind, devotion to scholastic achievement and uncommonly high grade point average, Donald was also listed in Who’s Who Among College Students

Mr. Don Thomas retired as a Technical Sergeant after twenty years of service from the United States Air Force. He was also employed by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation as a Purchasing Procurement Officer. A proud husband, father and friend, the above article was one of the last commentaries Don submitted prior to his death in March 1989. He missed President Barack Obama’s inauguration by ten years but we, as Americans, shall not miss his genius and his work. May his words live on into eternity …and their works follow them. Rev.14:13

The Sparks of Our Soul

It was billed as “parent’s night” as we honored our eldest son’s requests to watch him wrestle in his varsity event. Wrestling is a challenging sport as one must constantly monitor the food intake and make sure that their weight remains in the qualified guidelines. Our eldest had worked hard to maintain his weight class and was in prime shape for the match. On several occasion our eldest almost “pinned” his opponent, only to witness the referee giving “slow-motion” counts that resulted in his opponent benefiting from the additional time to break loose before the final count. Then the opponent had our eldest pinned and the referee made a very fast count and our son lost the match. With enough shame and humiliation to last a life time our eldest cried within. He cried enough invisible tears to drown out his weeping soul.

I tried to explain to our son that in the game of life sometimes you will be the subject of a “fast count” or a “bad call” that can make the difference between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The next time our eldest wrestled the same opponent, he left him lying on the mat however “parent’s night” was long gone.

President Barack Obama stated that “it has been a challenging week” making reference the Boston Marathon Bombings and the tragic fire in West, Texas. I think most people would agree with the president’s statement about “the challenging week.” The week’s act of terrorism lead to an entire city being placed on lock down and the entire country tuned in as the moments and hours passed by so painfully and slowly. Efforts will now be made to find the answers to the age old questions of “who, “why” and “what” caused suspect #1 and suspect #2 to become the focal point that rallied America to a call of unity, specifically E PLURIBUS UNUM, or out of many comes one. There is something unique about adversity. It either makes you or breaks you and that can been seen on an individual basis or collectively as a nation.

This brings me back to our son and his encounters in the game of life. Being born black (or white, red, yellow or brown for that matter) does not insulate one from the bad calls from the referees of the world. The fast counts and the unfairness of life can often create a spark that turns into a raging fire. The ninety-nine percent after birth is generally given a pacifier immediately after their first cry and not a “silver spoon.” The invisible tears that water the weeping soul many time spring forth from the “end-of -me (enemy) within” to create the unquenchable spark and later a raging fire. We must learn to take the challenges and turn them into opportunities. We must learn to take the spark and ignite the better part of that which lies within us.

Black And Not Twenty-one

I was young and dumb not yet twenty-one years of age and found myself working at General Motors. The bathroom graffiti I observed still rings fresh in my mind. It read in a paraphrased and sanitized version that the blacks were screwing the whites and the whites were screwing the blacks and GM was screwing both of us. Later that old adage of “How GM goes so goes the Country”. Back then GM had enough money to loan “billions” to the USA if the need arose. Well, GM went broke and so did the Country.

The year was 1960 and the city-wide parade looked like if was choreograph from the Rose Bowl. The parade route, the marching bands, all passed by the TWA office. East Saint Louis, Illinois had just been named the “All American City” with a population of more than 80,000 residents. It was the “best of times” as many of the now employed blacks moved from their segregated communities to newer parts of the community searching for that American Dream of home ownership and a green lawn. East Saint Louis, then and now, represents a microcosm of America. After years of being raped, ravished and ridiculed the cash strapped and downtrodden city elected its first black mayor in 1974 as the population plummeted down from the zenith of 80,000 to less than 30,000 today. Well, the city went broke and so did the county.

I enjoyed Joan Walsh’s book, What’s The Matter With White People? why we long for a golden age that never was . Ms. Walsh www.joan.walsh@salon.com allowed me to view what it was like being born Irish and the pains and pleasures the Irish experienced when they first immigrated to America. A similar view was ascertained when I experienced a diversity training exercise called “Tribes and Bridges”. Three speakers, an Irish sister, a Hispanic brother, and an Afro-American brother all gave insight into what it was like growing up Irish, Hispanic, and Black. Funny we all have more in common that binds us together than the highlighted differences that divides us.

I recall the words of Martin Luther King who once said “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. Falling, falling, falling…