Life is complex, and often there are a number of people, places and things that help formulate how we live it. I was blessed to have my parents, who introduced me to religion and God, helped me to understand the importance of respect and earning of respect and that education could be the key to your future. One of the most important lessons they instilled into our family was that richness was not materialism, but living out God’s greatest commandment, LOVE and health and happiness. They also instilled in us that “can’t” was not acceptable in our lives of vocabulary, and we were no better than anyone, but just as good. There are some periods of time that I often reflect on the built-in advantages I had as I began to become a part of the communities around me.
I was a typical student in school, played football, paid attention to the teachers, never late or absent. (Parents did not allow that.) In January 1949 I graduated from Fifth Avenue High School, and that same year out of curiosity (or maybe concern) became involved in politics. Although I was only 17 years of age, it was instantly apparent to me that the political process was just another form of slavery. All political positions were occupied by Whites but one, and he was the kind of colored man who would say, “we tired, boss.”
As a teenager I took an active part in every political campaign until I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952. In 1953 I registered to vote, honorably discharged in 1954 and was actively involved in every political campaign until 2016 (over 60 years). As I became more involved in politics I began to frequent the Crawford Grill #2 located at Wylie Avenue and Elmore St., and that became further maturity of my growth as it related to improving the overall quality of life for Black people. My original expectation on my introduction to the grill was music. One of my first lessons was being made aware of the fact that the Crawford Grill was the only music house between New York and Chicago that exclusively played Jazz. The surroundings grew on me as the entire business was Black-owned and a first-class operation, the likes I had never seen. The class emanated from the owner, Mr. Joseph Robinson, to the total operation of the business, first-class dining facility where you would be more comfortable taking your family. The entire staff were professionals and it was more than an institute of Jazz, especially to me, the customers were a cross-section of the entire Allegheny County, and it was my introduction to enhance my knowledge of people and things, the beginning of the kind of schooling that, if you pay attention, you can earn a PhD in Social Realities.
It would not be possible or fair for me to attempt to list all of those who unwittingly played the roles of professors, because I would omit too many deserving persons. I am compelled to list the chancellor of the institution, because he was the owner, Mr. Joseph Robinson, not only was he an astute businessman, he was intelligent—a number of persons are smart, even educated, but not intelligent. There were a number of us who qualified to be regulars in the corner of the Crawford Grill, but the Angel of Death has called all of them home, but myself and the son of the owner of the Crawford Grill, William “Buzzy” Robinson. Buzzy is an example of what we were exposed to in the Crawford Grill, because he is a world traveler—he was able to describe to us and particularly to those who had only read and saw foreign countries in movies about some of the places and things he was able to see and participate in, and he lived for years in “The Big Apple.”
The town, so nice, they named it twice—New York, New York.
The Crawford Grill is where I got to meet and know THE Mal Goode, Mr. William “Bill” Nunn Sr., editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, Mr. William Young, first Black to be appointed to the Governor of Pennsylvania’s cabinet as Secretary of Labor, all of the Black judges, all BLACK CANDIDATES. Everybody who believed he was somebody frequented the Crawford Grill. There were those persons I met, respected, learned from, listened to, and paid attention to. There were those persons who had traveled the entire country, been to the great 500 automobile race, 25 consecutive Kentucky Derbys, world championship fights, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jack Johnson, etc. There were those who had met and known Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, and they would tell how they would use their personal funds to finance Black organizations and candidates (something we don’t do today).
All of these men of yesterday are deceased, and CRAWFORD GRILL #2 IS CLOSED.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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