Feb. 6, 2016
You's Better Go Ask Somebody
Growing up as young black child in Baltimore City, Maryland Mississippi might as well been located on another planet. There was simply no way on God's green earth that my daddy was ever going to say take a road trip to the rage of racism that existed in that state of repressive oppression towards people of color. Hell, I don't think many blacks at that time would scream gleefully "road trip" if one of their parents decided it was time to visit the sites and sounds of Mississippi or even Alabama. Heck, it was enough just to manage diversionary activities visiting my father's family in rural Virginia.
I was connected to the Delta State only by my visits to my World Book Encyclopedia Volume M. However that volume in my dining room bookcase spoke of the hidden beauties of the Magnolia State and never mentioned the virulent racism that permeated Mississippi at the time of my youth. While, I knew the names of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, James Farmer, A Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Medgar Evers, and rising names of those young military voices like Stokley, H Rap Brown, Seale, Newton and Davis. Other names were hidden from view only to be unveiled as I sought answers in the formative college years.
One such name I discovered was Vernon Dammer who fought in plain sight the racism that confronted blacks in Mississippi in the fifties and in the sixties. He sought and fought for blacks in that state seared with racism to have the right to express themselves in the ballot box. Vernon was targeted by those who relished injustice and they took vengeance on his life on January 10, 1966. They went after him and his family but he fought valiantly to insure that none of his loved ones would be victims. He died fighting with a shotgun in his hands letting any one of those cowards in the night who spewed hatred towards him. That this black man wasn't turning his creek he was loading his gun.
You can kill the dreamer but not the dream I've heard many people say in reference to Dr. King. Yet, there was so more of those voices that spoke out against repressive oppression in our nation. That's why I really dislike this limiting of our historical contribution to this single month, this single solitary month. The reflective contributions of those who laid down their lives so that we can taste the fruits of liberty today as a people is enormous. Yet, our community suffers as much now as ever. Where once blacks in America fought and paid with their lives to secure the ballot. Our people's today refuse to even participate in that democratic process any longer. It's a fruitless activity they say it doesn't change a thing. Tell, that to Vernon Dammer who faced down the devils of hatred and oppression with a single shotgun to protect his, and ours for the right for that democratic expression.
How much has America changed? Well, as an older educated black man today. I do indeed take those road trips to those states my father avoided when I was younger. My daughter enjoys visiting her grandparents in Alabama. Heck I have visited each in every state in the south in my lifetime. Something as a kid growing up in East Baltimore I would've never envisioned. The dusty encyclopedias have been replaced by the world wide web. You can google almost any name and get some type of information about that person's life's contribution. Oh you can google the information on Vernon Dammer, it will give you his story written in poignant verses but it can never captured the sense of hatred, repression, or oppression he faced on a daily basis. Yet it's important to understand that this was a mere 50 years ago not one complete ring on an old oak tree. Google Mississippi and you still get those damn magnolias and the hidden gems of the delta along with those stars and bars of repression and oppression. Did anyone say "road trip"? The musings of a black man but if you don't know the name Vernon Dammer you'd better go ask somebody.