By Evelyn M. Bingham
SUN COLUMNIST & POET
Well, once again it is February, the month annually set aside to honor African Americans past and present, who have helped to better our society and indeed, the world. They have carved out a notch for themselves as firsts in their individual areas of expertise or interest.
Here are just a few very recent ones, which I am sure will make the record books : Young 15 year old Kimberly Anyadike, of Compton, Calif., may have flown into the record book as the youngest African American female to complete a cross-country flight. Kimberly flew a single engine Cessna from Compton, Calif. To Newport News, Va. On a 13 day cross-country trip to honor her long admired Tuskegee Airmen. Accompanying her on the trip was Tuskegee Airman Levi Thornhill, in whose honor her plane was named. It was an awesome thrill and honor for both pilots involved, and a most amazing accomplishment for this young teen who aspires to be a cardiovascular surgeon. Kimberly has a sixteen year old sister, Kelly, who holds the Guiness Book of World Records in 2008, when she became the youngest African American female to fly solo in four different fixed wing planes in one day. Both girls became interested in flying through Tomorrows Aeronautical Museum, a Compton based organization that offers aviation lessons for disadvantaged youth in exchange for community service.
Another great discovery was made in the medical field recently, when a black doctor, a pathologist noticed similarities, and some identical changes as he performed autopsies on the brain tissue of several sports figures. The autopsies confirmed his suspicions, beyond a shadow of a doubt that these foot ball players, boxers, wrestlers and others who were subjected to repeated head trauma, all suffered from an illness causing noticeable mental, physical and personality changes totally contrary to their norm, which was observed just prior to their death.
And of course, one of our greatest firsts was the inauguration and election of the first African American president of the USA.
Many, many years ago, I heard a radio program hosted by Rev. Jim Holly of Little Rock Baptist Church, in Detroit Mi., in it he was reading a story entitled A World Without Our People. I was moved to call the station following the broadcast to offer my thanks and congratulations for such an interesting show dedicated to Black History facts. I never imagined that Rev. Holly himself would be answering the phone. I asked if he would mind sending me a copy, as I hoped to make it available to my business customers. He very graciously faxed me a copy, and for years I made copies available to our customers during February. I felt that you and your family members would enjoy my sharing it with you too!
A World Without Our People
This is a story of a little boy named Theo, who woke up one morning and asked his mother, “Mom, what if there were no Black people in the world?” Well his mother thought about that for a moment, and then she said: Son, follow me around today and let’s just see what it would be like if there were no Black people in the world.
Mom said, “Now go get dressed and we will get started.” Theo ran to his room to put on his clothes and shoes. His mother took one look at him and said, “Theo, where are your shoes, and those clothes are all wrinkled son, I must iron them.” But when she reached for the ironing board it was no longer there. You see Sarah Boone, a Black woman, in-vented the ironing board and Jan Matzelinger, a Black man, invented the shoe lasting machine.
“Oh well”, she said, “please go and do something to your hair.” Theo ran in his room to comb his hair, but the comb was not there. You see, Walter Sammons, a Black man, in-vented the comb. Theo decided to just brush his hair, but the brush was gone. You see, Lydia O. Newman, a Black woman, invented the brush.
Well this was a sight, no shoes, wrinkled clothes, hair a mess, even Mom’s hair, without the hair care inventions of Madam C.J. Walker, well you get the picture.
Mom told Theo, “Let’s do our chores around the house and then take a trip to the grocery store.” Theo’s job was to sweep the floor. He swept and swept and swept. When he reached for the dust pan, it was not there. You see, Lloyd P. Ray, a Black man, invented the dust pan. So he swept his pile of dirt into a corner and left it there. He then decided to mop the floor, but the mop was gone. You see, Thomas W. Stewart, a Black man, invented the mop. Theo yelled to his Mom, “Mom, I am not having any luck”. “Well son”, she said, “Let me finish washing these clothes and we can go to the grocery store.” When the wash finished, she went to place the clothes into the dryer but it was not there. You see, George T. Samon. A Black man, invented the clothes dryer.
Mom asked Theo to go get a pencil and some paper to prepare their list for the market. So Theo ran for the paper and pencil but noticed the pencil lead was broken. Well he was out of luck because John Love, a Black man invented the pencil sharpener. Mom reached for a pen, it was not there because William Purvis, a Black man, invented the fountain pen. As a matter of fact, Lee Burridge invented the typewriting machine, and W.A. Lovette the advanced printing press.
Theo and his mother decided to head out for the market. Well when Theo opened the door he noticed that the grass was as high as he was tall. You see, the lawn mower was invented by John Burr, a black man. They made their way over to the car, and found that it just wouldn’t go. You see, Richard Spikes, a Black man invented the automatic gear shift and Joseph Gammel invented the supercharge system for internal combustion engines. They noticed that the few cars that were moving, were running into each other and having wrecks because there were no traffic signals. You see, Garrett A. Morgan, a Black man invented the traffic light.
Well, it was getting late, so they walked to the market, got their groceries and returned home. Just when they were about to put away the milk, eggs, butter, they noticed the refrigerator was gone. You see, John Standard, a Black man, invented the refrigerator. So they just left the food on the counter. By this time, Theo noticed that he was getting mighty cold. Mom went to turn up the heat, and what do you know. Alice Parker, a Black female, invented the heating furnace. Even in the summer time they would have been out of luck because Frederick Jones, a Black man, invented the air conditioner. It was almost time for Theo’s father to arrive home. He usually takes the bus. But there was no bus, because its precursor was the electric trolley, invented by another black man, Elbert R. Robinson. He usually takes the elevator from his office on the 20th floor, but there was no elevator because Alexander Miles, a Black man, invented the elevator. He also usually dropped off the office mail at a nearby mailbox, but it was no longer there because Phillip Downing, a Black man, invented the letter drop mailbox and William Barry invented the postmarking and canceling machine.
Theo and his mother sat at the kitchen table with their head in heir hands. When the father arrived he asked, “Why are you sitting in the dark? Why?” Because Lewis Howard Latimer, a Black man, invented the filament within the light bulb. Theo quickly learned what it would be like if there were no Black people in the world. Not to mention if he were ever to get sick and needed blood.
Charles Drew, a Black scientist, found a way to preserve and store blood, which led to his starting the worlds first blood bank. And what if a family member had to have heart surgery. This would have been impossible without Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a Black doctor, who performed the first open heart surgery.
So if you ever wonder, like Theo, where we would be without US!!! Well, it’s pretty plain to see. We would be in the dark!
By Evangelist Barbara Colbert
SPECIAL TO THE SUN
The summer of 1967 was the last summer I spent in the city of Detroit as a girl growing up. Born and raised in Philadelphia, I spent every summer of my life in Detroit with my extended family. Yet the summer of 1967, as racial tensions grew as hot as the midday summer, I did not know at the tender age of 12, that I was about to experience first hand history in the making and that Black America as we all knew it, would never be the same. That summer I was staying with a family of eight on the lower east side of Detroit, poor as Church mice. Yet, oblivious to it all, carefree and full of energy, we spent our days riding our bikes up and down Jefferson Avenue and cruising Belle Isle. We spent our nights out on the porch, eating popsicles and talking into the midnight hour, basking in the summer breeze mingled with the smell of honeysuckle and fried chicken. Nothing mattered. We were too young to know and too young to care that the city was pregnant with racial tension, about to explode into full fledged mayhem. Sure enough, just as sudden as the pains of childbirth comes upon a woman, so did the night that the city exploded in fire and embers.
We stood on our front porches watching as fire blazed across the horizon. The world around us became a blazing inferno as sirens blared, gunshots rang out in the night and uniformed men patrolled our street in helmets with rifles held ready to engage at the slightest movement. Although we watched in awe and amazement, we really didn't know that this would be the end of Detroit as many knew it. A city rich with history from Motown to automobile factories, a place where people came from far and near to make a life for themselves, pursuing the American dream, from legendary superstardom, to the quintessential family man, Detroit would now forevermore be known as the cradle of revolution for Black America.
From that monumental summer on, a part of me remained in Detroit. Even after I returned back home to Philadelphia things were never the same. Everywhere there was an unspoken barrier between the races. An underlying rebellion and righteous indignation. We had become a people united, who had raised up and fought back, proud to be Black. In the eyes of those of us who were not native Detroiters, the Motor City was like the land of milk and honey. A place where Black Americans were strong, powerful and prosperous and had indeed overcome.
Years later I came back to become a resident of the city of Detroit and have come to love it as if it was my birthplace. With all of its history, its scars, its baggage, its transitions, I have come to love Detroit. For when you experience a history with something and you've felt the pain, heard the cries, your heart becomes entangled with its struggle, and you simply fall in love. Plus, you never forget the experience. That summer of 1967, I grew from a naive little girl, to a young black American with a purpose.
I personally contend that and there is no city in this great United States that has a more profound history than the city of Detroit. A city that 50 years ago blazed with fire and embers, paving the way for Black Americans to rise from the resulting ashes like a Phoenix, proud, strong and victorious!