Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I'll color him Father

First let me apologize.. I tried to post my photo on the margin where my profile is.. It didn't work... Oh well no worries.... That's me in the photo on the last post...

I am sitting here this morning reflecting on the last few days of the year and boy, what a year this has been... The most monumental event of 2005 was that my father passed away... Although one side of my brain was prepared for this (he had a series of health challenges in the latter years of his life) but the other side clearly and unequivocally had no doubt that he would make it. Last year at Christmas time, we spent the holiday in the hospital. It was a surreal experience, seeing my father laying there basically helpless. See, My Dad was a sea-going sailor, a tough master chief in the United States Navy. He was a proud black man, who worked his way through college obtaining two Masters Degrees. He taught us to look the "Man" in the eye and work with them, never forgetting that our education and mannerisms came from a legacy of blackness that screamed "we are equal - we are all God's Children!!!"

He demanded complete and utter attention to our studies - now, here's where I failed. I remember him and mom getting so angry with me year after year because of my grades. I remember him making me get bused to school at the advent of integration because he believed that I would get a better education. He never listened to me when I felt I was getting slighted in the school. He had complete and unwavering faith in the system. Dr. King was right and prejudice and discrimination was abolished with the signing of the Equal Rights Bill.... What he didn't see was that I was such a voracious reader(mom's fault) that I read my studies and homework long before the teacher assigned than accordingly.. Once the assignments hit our desks, I was already bored to death. My grades on paper suffered. My Mom was so hurt she didn't even attend my graduation.... But Dad did.. He was in the house... He told me I sucked, though and looking back, I guess I did..

I developed an intense love for music that my Dad just did not understand... I still love music and hence I am in the "industry" I remember telling him that I wanted to be on the radio. He thought that was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard. I remember seeing that Howard University had just built a multi million dollar radio and television school and I wanted to go. They both were like no - first your grades are wack and second you are not going to learn about some fly by night industry.

I joined the Marine Corps after Graduation determined to learn electronics in preparation for my ownership of radio stations. My Dad flipped. He told the recruiter when they came to pick me up that I was nothing and that I could never make it in the Corps, I was a pussy!! He said... But when he saw me march across that grinder on Graduation Day, all he could say was "That's my Boy" over and over again. That memory just brings tears to my eyes.. ok, let me pull myself together to finish this....

When I started in this business it ws under duress and estrangement from Dad. I had gotten married early in life and divorced sooner and it seemed that everything I wanted to achieve in life, he was against. After a few years of that madness, we got back together. By now, I had gotten gainful employment in the industry and had started to build a really good reputation. He came to an event - the red carpet screening of "X" starring Denzel Washington. I remember his face when he saw that we were getting treated like VIP's.. I remember him coming to my office and seeing where I worked, how people treated me... He looked at me and said... I had no idea that you guys really take care of business... He hugged me. Man, that was the best!!!

Later I wrote him a letter apologizing for being such a butthead in school. But I also told him about the instances of discrimination that I felt at Crawford High. I told him how the white kids would chase our buses from time to time on their bikes and spit on us. I told him how certain teachers just would not grade us fairly. I also told him about Loralyn Tenny who was in the Choir and Madrigals with me. They were Mormons. We were strict church going folks (I still love the Lord and am in Church EVERY Sunday)... Dad was the head usher, head deacon and an important part of our church.

I had never met the Mormons before getting bused to Crawford. Each year, the Madrigals went to the Church of the Latter Day Saints temple. It was a cool experience- a magnificent church. But I wanted to know why we could not go to my church. It was a cool church - one of the most important black churches in the city. But they never took my query seriously. Loralyn told me that our church was not good enough because I wasn't going to heaven anyway. WHAT!!!! that blew me away. She told me that being black was the mark of Cain- God's curse for the murder of Abel. I told Dad, but he did not want to hear it. Mom just waved it off as some childish gibberish. But it blew me away.

We were close in the Choir and Madrigals so when it came time for graduation, I was getting my annual signed by everyone. I even went to Loralyn who wrote "I cannot help what the Lord has in store for your people. God Bless You Brother Johnson".. I still have my senior annual and that signature is indelible and clear even some thirty years later.

I once reminded Dad about this incident and he told me "yes, but it made you strong didn't it. Now that you know what they think about you, you don't have to guess, just keep moving on, pressing toward the mark", Dang, Dad is the BOMB!!!!

I finished the letter apologizing for letting him down, but just wanted him to know what I was going through. His response was, " you told me the truth and got it off your chest. That's a good thing. "

Now, Dad is in the heavens. Suffering no more. I hope that he is proud of me. I hope that I am living proof that his legacy of spirituality, truth and strength will be carried on. I hope he knows that I love him. I hope he knows that I appreciate him for teaching me how to be a real man.

Dad, I will always cherish your memory. Thank you for being there - did you know that most of my friends did not have their father in their lives? Man that is an astonishing fact! There's a song: I think I'll color him Father, I think I'll color him love...

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