LOUIS ‘HOP’ KENDRICK
This week’s column is the result of a visit to Allegheny County criminal court. I am totally familiar with the court system and have been for more than 40 years, but it never ceases to anger me.
As I sat and waited for a friend of mine, I witnessed more than 10 young Black men being escorted through the hallways shackled hand and foot. Two of them knew me and said, “Hi, Mr. Hop.” I almost responded by asking them how they were doing, but then it dawned on me, how did it look like they were doing? I have no idea what these people were charged with and in all probability most of them could be guilty.
However, my years of working as a narcotics detective, investigator for Pittsburgh’s OPR, investigator for Allegheny County Public Defenders and being unjustly arrested four times gives me an extremely knowable understanding about how flawed the so-called justice system can be. Remember it is “just us”.
I sat there and reflected on that old saying, “how much has changed, but much remains the same.” The district attorneys, public defenders, defense attorneys, police officers, deputy sheriffs and judges were 99.8 percent White.
After going home I reflected to one of my daughters, Jerri, who was visiting us, and she mentioned this problem exists across the nation. She then changed the conversation and said that my daughter, Kim, who lives in Washington, D.C., has been doing some research on my father’s side of the family.
My father has been dead 60 years and her research uncovered a fact that none of us knew. His middle name was Right. Yes daddy’s legal name was Milton “Right” Kendrick.
I smiled, because it was apparent to me how appropriate that name was, and any person who knew him would agree.
Daddy would tell not just the family, but also anyone who would listen the following: 1. All things were possible, 2. Get an education, because they can’t take that away, 3. You must have self pride before you can have race pride, 4. Whatever you do, provide for your family, 5. He did not know the word entrepreneur, but stressed developing your own business (he started his in 1937), 6. Trust in God and always honor your father and mother, 7. Never be a follower, 8. Never take that which doesn’t belong to you, but if you do and it takes more than yourself to carry it you got too many people, 9. You can know untold numbers of people, but true friends are very limited, 10. Always remember to give something back, 11. Never forget those who helped you on the way up, it’s a long, lonely fall back down, 12. Most important, “Can’t” is never acceptable in your life or vocabulary.
Yes these were the words of wisdom by our daddy, granddaddy, great-granddaddy and great-great-granddaddy Milton “Right” Kendrick.
It is my most sincere conviction that the astronomical number of young people who fall prey to the court system could be cut by 90 percent if there were positive fathers in their lives. However, there are a multitude of reasons why daddy is not presence.
The number one reason is that too many fathers never had a positive daddy.
The lack of economic resources (no money) oft times have created such a strain on the parents that it resulted in daddy leaving. History clearly indicated that Black men were last hired and first fired.
If a Black man was fortunate enough to obtain a decent job his White co-workers constantly challenged his manhood; he was called boy, George, slick, coon and much worse. They were forced to take the dirtiest and most dangerous assignments and if he complained he risked termination.
On a personal level I like many of others failed to understand the tremendous amount of racism that existed in our hometown of Pittsburgh.
For example there were no Black police officers or firemen, no Black teachers, certain swimming pools were denied to us, cemeteries had colored sections, and we were red lined when attempting to rent or buy a house. We generally accepted it by simply stating that is just the way it is, after all this is not as bad as the south.
In 1954 1 was inducted into the U.S. Army and encountered racism and acts of discrimination that were not only unbelievable, but were totally unacceptable.
Instinctively I challenged these bigoted acts and I was summoned to headquarters where the commanding colonel called me on the carpet and informed me that if I persisted in my challenging authority I could be subject to a court martial and charged with mutiny.
I am writing about these incidents because daddy always reminded us that 13. Racism and discrimination would always exist, but we should never allow them to become crutches or roadblocks to prohibit us from doing our very best.
Please remember to send a financial contribution to Kingsley Association.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum page.)
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