By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman
Jaden Miller is a dreamer. The 12-year-old African American middle school student dreams of owning a manufacturing plant that will mass produce specialized vehicles for handicapped drivers.
“I want to design a voice activated car,” he explained. “It will open doors, adjust the seats, turn on the radio, start and switch gears all at the command of the driver’s voice. It will also have a special device to open the trunk and lift the wheelchair out and roll it up to the door for the driver to get in and out of the chair. My car will be perfect for my older brother and others like him.”
Like Jaden, Charles R. Patterson was a dreamer too. He was born into slavery and dreamed of freedom. After working his way to freedom, Patterson learned the coach building trade. He began to make a name for himself, earning the respect of James P. Lowe, owner of J.P. Lowe & Company, a carriage manufacturer.
While working at Lowe’s, Patterson mastered his skills. In 1893, he bought Lowe’s shares of the company. He renamed the company C.R. Patterson, Son & Co, becoming the first and only African-American owned car manufacturer to date. He hired his two sons, Frederick and Samuel. Together, they learned the trade and boosted the company’s reputation. At their prime, they produced 28 different vehicle styles employing 10 to 15 workers. Their prices ranged from $120 to $150. Samuel passed away in 1899 at the age of 23.
Following the death of his father Charles in 1910, Frederick inherited C.R. Patterson, Son & Co. In 1915, he began manufacturing under Patterson-Greenfield and rolled out his first vehicle.
Seeking to keep up with industry changes and demands, the company reorganized as the Greenfield Bus Body Company around 1920. The Great Depression contributed to the company’s decline in sales.
In 1932, Frederick Paterson died. The company changed its name to Gallia Body Company. Unable to keep up with competitors such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler forced the company to close its doors permanently in 1939. However, their contributions have paved the way for Jaden and others to fulfill their dreams.
Chyna, a 10-year-old African American elementary school student, is also a dreamer.
“I want to form a club for kids across the world to join and fight racism. Kids living in refugee camps can become pen pals with those in free lands. We will become their spokesperson to make grown-ups aware of what’s going on from a kid’s viewpoint. No one seems to care about what kids think. They just want to build walls to keep people out, but they don’t care about the reason why they’re trying to get in.”
Laying a foundation for Chyna’s success was William Lambert. He founded the Colored Vigilant Committee, the first civil rights organization in Detroit. Seeking to obtain suffrage for black men in Michigan prompted Lambert to start a movement. He also helped to organize and was elected chair of the first Convention of Colored Citizens in Michigan, which was held in 1843. Long before African Americans were given the right to vote, Lambert spoke out in strong support. He also sought to bring public education to black children in Detroit and helped slaves to achieve their dreams of freedom.
While some have unconventional dreams, others dream of ordinary things like becoming a teacher, lawyer or doctor. But, sometimes what appears to be ordinary becomes extraordinary.
“I want to develop a cure for cancer,” says 16-year-old Leila. “My cure won’t cause my patients’ hair to fall out or make them sicker. It will also cure them in any stage they may be in. I want to be the first black doctor to develop a permanent cure.”
Becoming the first in any task is not always easy.
Before the Civil Rights Movement was successful in achieving equality in a number of areas, Dr. Natalia M. Tanner was already breaking down barriers and achieving a number of firsts for African Americans.
Overcoming racism, she became the first black doctor on staff at Children’s Hospital in Detroit in 1952. She was the first African American board certified pediatrician in Detroit.
Refusing to be ignored during a meeting for entry into the Detroit Pediatric Society, she stood up and challenged the chairman, who introduced Tanner as an applicant member. "No, I am not an applicant. I am a full fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and I am a transfer member from the Illinois Chapter," she declared.
Tanner also became the first woman and African American to serve as president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1983 and the first African American fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It’s because of people like Patterson, Lambert and Tanner achieving their dreams that dreamers today can be confident that they can make what appears to be impossible, possible.
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly” said Langston Hughes.
So, we encourage all to “dare to dream”.