In the early years of my 1950s political activism, it became apparent to me “colored folks” were shut out of the political process. It was a dual situation of the White men in power who denied us an opportunity to participate and the colored folks, who suffered from the residue of slavery, and dared not to dream that Mr. Jim and Mr. Charlie, the power brokers of the Lower Hill District, should be opposed even if it meant colored folks becoming equal. The White men and the Blacks would point their fingers at me and say, “Boy it’s always been this way.”
As young as I was at 18, I must have had a hearing problem or a severe lack of understanding, because I absolutely refused to accept those thoughts or actions. In those years it was extremely difficult for others and me to stay focused on the positive change that we understood must occur if we are to move upward. I witnessed over the generations some extremely difficult and detrimental actions by Blacks against Blacks and I would ask God what is wrong with us? What is happening to us? A friend of mine, who is now deceased would answer that the remnants of slavery transcended the centuries and had a devastating affect on too many of us. It took many years for me to agree with this explanation for some of our grievous actions. I have personally witnessed Black persons participate in the destruction of other Blacks over my 85 years and these negative acts still occur in 2017.
I will never forget the late Allegheny County Sheriff was running for reelection and there was a meeting held in a Hill District church and the preacher’s son introduced him. The church was filled with Black men and women and Sheriff Coon was summoned to the pulpit with some of the most humiliating words I had ever heard: “Sheriff Coon, come on up and speak to your coons.” The sheriff almost fainted; the people clapped and fell out laughing.
I took issue with the insulting remarks and was asked to leave or be forced to leave, I have always wondered how many of those in attendance agreed with me.
Over the years I have ran and supported Blacks who aspire to public office, but the first question that generally arises from some is why do they run, they can’t win, they can’t raise any money etc. Too many Blacks in 2017 never question why any White candidate runs for any public office. I contend the main reason is that the slavery mentality still has a hold on too many of us, just as it did when I was 18. An overwhelming number of us still believe that Mr. Mr. Jim and Mr. Charlie deserve the right to be in charge.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the Forum page.)
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