“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” are the famous words of the southern author by the name of William Faulkner. If there was one crown jewel of wisdom I would like to past on to my grandson, Samad, and others, it is the need to “know your past, and how knowing your past prepares you to deal effectively with your present and finally how you engaged the present, will determine the successes you may have in the future”. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are intertwined throughout the fabric of life and the biblical scripture of “My people perish due to a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) is one infallible truth.This letter is to my grandson, Samad, but in actuality it is a letter to all my grandchilden and to you.
It was a hot, and humid day during the first week of July, two months ago as my grandson, his mother and his sister awaited our arrival from Sunday church services. Samad will be 20 in December, and the family was here in St. Louis for a family reunion. Mom and daughter drove up from their home State of Oklahoma, but Samad accompanied his grandfather (maternal) from Oklahoma to Washington D.C before arriving in St. Louis as his grandfather was continuing his struggle to obtained a redress of his grievance as it relates to the loss of more than 200 acres land. As a sidebar, reportedly 1910 was the peak year of landownership by blacks with over 218,000 black farmers owning in full or in part more than 15 millions acres. As of 1992, those numbers dwindled down to 18,000 black farmers left, owning 2.3 million acres. Samad was blessed that his grandfather included him on the trip to the nation’s capitol in his efforts to address his grievance to the government. His grandfather is included in the class action lawsuit (Pigford V. Glickman) involving the black farmers of America who filed discrimination claims against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and that legal matter remained unresolved to date.
I was impressed that my grandson was learning how to work on a farm, the planting, and harvesting of crops, the sale of live stock, and how to operate the various heavy equipment his grandfather has. Hearing him made me reminisce how I drove my grandfather’s John Deere tractor at a young age and later was involved in the sale of nine acres of land for my grandmother. My paternal grandfather died in 1978. I was surprised to learn about the Illinois Centennial and Sesquicentennial Farm Programs, the former representing more than 9,000 farmers throughout Illinois that have kept their family farms for “100 years” or longer and the latter group (600 farmers) maintaining their farm land in the family for 150 years or longer. I wondered how many black farmers were included in these numbers?
The conversation later moved to politics and I learn that Samad was ” feeling the burn” as he wanted Bernie Sanders to become the next president. It should be noted that my eleven year old granddaughter also voted for Bernie Sanders as her 5th grade class held a mock election. Samad informed me that he “would not be voting” as he had done the research on Hillary Clinton and could not support her. Naturally I was livid and “seeing stars” I thought of the lives loss in order for black Americans to obtain the right to vote. I circled in for more answers and asked him about his “research.” He made reference to “social medial” and I informed him that you can not always believe everything you read or hear on social media.
Later as this issues continued to simmer in my mind I ran across an article regarding Tuskegee Airman, Dabney Montgomery, who died earlier this month at the age of 93. Montgomery was a member of the fame Tuskegee Airman , the bomber escorts of the 332nd Fighter Group who became known as the “Red Tails.” Montgomery, after fighting in World War II returned home to face Jim Crow American and was refused the right to vote in Alabama. I never met Montgomery, but I did meet Harold Earl Tubbs also from Alabama. Tubbs was the brother to my spiritual mentor, the Reverend Carl Tubbs who have since transition from time to eternity. Harold Earl Tubbs fought in the Korean War and was a member of the U.S. Army. Tubbs was a POW for more than a year in North Korea. His mother refused to accept that her son was dead and always set the table with a place for the son whom the army reported was killed in action. Refusing to accept the $10,000 insurance benefit from the Army, one day she received information from the Red Cross informing her that her son was indeed alive. Harold went one to become a gifted “left hand guitar player” for the late James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. Time will not allow more on what the Mongomerys and the Tubbs of the South (and North) experienced before the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement.
Samad has a high school diploma and has a bright future ahead. Like I out lived my grandfathers, there exist the possibility that he will do likewise. I never met William Faulkner, Samad, but I have met a philosopher named The Reverend Dr. Solomon. There is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10) says Solomon. Samad is a gifted athletic and execlled in wrestling, baseball and football. He also has a good work record and is not afraid of doing a “good days work. But, if I had it to do all over and had quality time with his mind, I would make sure he could bench press his way from the “land flowing with milk and honey to forty acres and a mule.” I would like to witness him hitting a grand slam as he clears first base learning about Dred Scott, approach second base and smile at Plessy V. Ferguson, stroll on toward third base and meet Brown V. Board of Education and proudly head home where a cloud of witnesses from Emmett Till, Jackie Robinson, Marcus Garvey, Martin, Medgar and others cry out for a curtain call. Finally my son, with only ten second left in the game and your team is down by “three” the football is in your hand. Run for the goal post, score the winning touchdown and grab the victory out of the jaws of defeat as you make the world a better place because you were here.