It was a view from my mother’s womb, approximately three score and four years ago. I remember the day like it was only yesterday. It was the turn of the 20th century. Less than five years into the century, 1903 to be exact. A black man who taught school in Belleville, Illinois, 10 miles east of East St. Louis, argued with his white superintendent regarding his certification. The superintendent was shot. The teacher was later charged and jailed in this predominately white community. Tensions were high and the teacher was taken from jail by a mob of over two hundred men and was subsequently hanged and burned. Almost fourteen years later the East St. Louis Race Riot of 1917 occurred with both blacks and whites being killed. The actual death counts for the blacks remained questionable even to this date as reportedly ten whites were killed and anywhere from 30 or more Colored were killed. European immigrants from Poland, Lithuania, Ireland, Germany, Italy and others countries after passing through Ellis Island traveled to East St Louis where jobs were plentiful. Capital was endless and laborers were few and it was rumored that if you could not make it in East St. Louis you could not make it anywhere. Soon the financial capital dried up and the laborers became too many as the European immigrants ran head-on into the black Diaspora. Black people exodus the South for East St. Louis. Divide and conquer became the order of the day as the city surrounded by various industries located outside of it’s taxing district played one race against the other.
Dad had been metamorphosized as he joined the navy and did a tour of three years. Dad’s navy tour was less than five years before the military started the task of desegregation if not in spirit but by executive law. He was changed forever from the potential loving father to papa becoming a rolling stone. It was under the canopy of this chaos that mom had to be driven past the two local white hospitals in the city headed for Homer G. Phillips Hospital, across the river in St. Louis, Missouri. Many blacks were born after receiving the skilled services from theses black doctors and nurses and later died violent deaths at the emergency room of Homer G, Phillips, the black hospital serving the colored community in both states. I could not be born black in a white hospital hence the journey across the Mississippi River. Welcome, warm and wanted I left the safe confines of my abode for the past nine months to later experience being born black four times.