This week’s column is the result of a conversation that took place with a young, well-educated, committed Black man. His views about people of my generation were not original, because I have heard them numerous times, and it has never upset me or deterred me from what I know is my mission in life. This is not a letter of rebuke or criticism, but rather an explanation and hopefully it will lead to a better understanding.
The original conversation had to do with a tremendous misunderstanding about those whom he believed are failing to pass the torch on to others. I am no longer the avid reader that I was a few years ago but I frequent the library and do research on Torch Bearers such as Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Medgar Evers, Hon. Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X and a host of others. I never had the privilege to meet these people so there has never been the opportunity to receive the torch from them or any other person. However I was fortunate to the extent that I had the greatest father in the world and he instilled in the family a sense of self esteem, the word can’t not being acceptable in life or vocabulary, rich is not a state of being but a state of mind, and last but not least responsibility for self and others.
No one passed me a torch, but I must admit that daddy psychologically prepared me. At the age of 17, I went to the election poll out of curiosity and over the next few years I became more and more familiar with the negatives of the local political system as it applied to colored people [not Black yet].
In 1952, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and over the two years there was an awakening in me that compelled me to become the spokesperson in the battalion and I remember the day I stood in front of the colonel and he roared at me asking the question, “Do you realize you could be charged with mutiny and wind up in the stockade?” Now I began to read the military codes and I became so proficient that the word from White and Black troops alike throughout the 18th Battalion was call Hop. It was the beginning of an understanding that it was My Responsibility To Challenge Wrong.
There are untold numbers of events that I helped shape in a positive manner that are in a book of my life that I am currently writing, it is titled “A Black Man Who Was Never Disadvantaged.” The major roles that I have played that have benefitted numbers of folks are not accomplishments I brag about, but I am immensely proud, and in the words of the gospel song, “If I can help somebody then my living will not be in vain.”
The current generation must not wait until someone taps them on the shoulder and suggests that they follow them. The decision is one that you as an individual must make. Some people that I have the utmost of respect for, namely Herman Reid, Chris Moore and Malik Bankston, have picked up the torch. They have the qualities that are required. Those qualities are what I constantly write about Caring, Concern, Commitment, Compassion and Courage.
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(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)