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14 The Hampton Roads Messenger

Volume 5 Number 11 Your Opinion Matters

One Man’s Continuing Struggle and Ongoing Journey To Win The Future

BY JOHN L. HORTON This is my story. It is one man’s

continuing struggle and ongoing journey to “win the future.”

I was born on Sept. 20, 1940, in the

“colored wing” of Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. My birth certificate lists my race as “colored.”

My mother and father, 31 and 37

years old, respectively, were married and raised their six children — I am the second oldest — in the colored housing projects of Chattanooga and the rural town of Cedar town, Ga. My father, a day laborer, deserted our family when I was 13. To support us, my mother worked as a maid and cook. We also received public assistance and food handouts.

I tell you this not because I want

praise for having made something of myself. I share my story because I keep hearing Americans — white and black — mention racism as they rant about politics and health care and the economy. I want people to see what this country was like 60 years ago, to appreciate how far it’s come and recognize that overcoming anger and resentment, whatever the source, is the first step to progress.

History provides great role models

and necessary perspective. Reading the history of my culture helped me to recognize that whatever I’ve achieved has been because people who came before allowed me to stand on their shoulders.

My mother, who had only three

or four years of formal schooling, taught me to read, using comic books, magazines, and newspapers, before I started class at the all-black public schools.

With her encouragement, I became

an excellent student and developed good study habits, although I dropped out of school in the 10th grade to work as a day laborer and field worker.

As a youth, I lived and thrived

in all-black neighborhoods and communities. The only interaction I had with white people was when I worked for them, or they sold goods and services in the colored community.

In my experience, all colored

people lived together, attended church together, patronized colored barbers, beauticians, morticians, restaurants, hotels, night clubs, dance halls, libraries, movies.

But no colored policemen,

firefighters, contractors, journalists, social workers, teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, judges, mayor, council members or state lawmakers served the society at large. No matter their qualifications and skills, colored people were seen as inferior human beings and incompetent workers. In the mainstream newspapers and media outlets, colored people did not exist. They were not born. They didn’t graduate, become engaged, marry or die. Only if a publication contained a

colored section was there a place to recognize the milestones of people who looked like me.

At age 17, I joined the Marine

Corps (Active Reserves) and began what turned out to be a 30-year career. I was sworn in with two other colored Marines in Nashville. Three white Marines were sworn in a few minutes before us in a separate ceremony by the same Marine major/recruiting officer. The night before, the white Marines slept at the Andrew Jackson Hotel. We, three black Marines, spent the night at the Nashville Colored YMCA.

These were signs of the times:

separate drinking fountains, bathrooms, dressing rooms, recreation centers, community parks, swimming pools and public transportation. This was the America that I grew up in. This was the America that I learned in. This was my America.

An inward alienation and general

distrust existed based on complexion and skin hue. If you were white, you were all right; if you were yellow, you were mellow; if you were brown, you could stick around; and if you were black, you should get back.

Joining the Marine Corps at age

17 opened up a new world of adventure and opportunity for me. These early years were never easy, but my world view and sense of achievement improved significantly.

When I first visited Norfolk,

Albany, Georgia, and Jacksonville, N.C., the “Colored/Negro” personnel were segregated whenever we went into towns and communities. All this was happening while we were serving in the military and fighting for our country and the American people. It hurt. I was angry and resentful. But this was reality.

I could have quit. I could have

fought back. But over the years, I have discovered that life can be an empowering experience and rewarding journey if one is willing to look, listen and learn.

I wasn’t aware of the significance

of black culture, history and heritage until the late 1950s and early 1960s. In school I’d learned only about a handful of black heroes and personalities such as B.T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Harriet Tubman, Crispus Attucks and Sojourner Truth. However, I didn’t know anything about Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Henry Highland Garnet, Jack Johnson or Paul Robeson.

My lack of knowledge fed into a

broader negativity and emptiness about black people, especially during this era of legal segregation. I thought black people must be unworthy of better.

While in the Marine Corps, I

read the first book about black people that gave me hope and inspiration: the autobiography of Richard Wright, the classic “Black Boy.” I instantly identified with many of his travails.

And then my commanding officer,

a white man, gave me my first textbook about black history, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin. For several months, I devoured the contents of that book, and to this day, I still use it, my Black Bible, for knowledge, reference, inspiration and teaching.

I pushed to earn my high

school GED and eventually received associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Over the years, I’ve taught black

history in Japan, in California, in Cherry Point, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., and Norfolk-Tidewater, Virginia. I’ve worked with troubled youth and dysfunctional families. In the process, I have used black history and African culture to motivate and uplift them. I tell them about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of those who have gone

before. I tell them to love themselves, to trust themselves, believe in themselves – and do for themselves.

When I feel dejected, I turn to

my heroes. I draw on their struggles and victories and their countless contributions, restoring my appreciation for where black people have been, where they are now and where they might be one day.

In my American, I sincerely believe it is possible to “win the future.”

John L. Horton, 70, is a retired

Marine sergeant major and recently retired juvenile probation officer. Additionally, he has worked as a youth intervention specialist, truancy coordinator, social worker and college teacher. Currently, he volunteers with inner city communities and organizations as his time and health allow.

The City of Virginia Beach in Year 2011

BY ELDER GERALD DEFOREST TYLER I find it quite appalling that here

we are in The City of Virginia Beach in Year 2011, and African-Americans are yet being treated as if we’re second-class citizens in the City of Virginia Beach by a Mayor Will Sessoms led City Council. I was fortunate, or perhaps it may be better expressed unfortunate to have had the opportunity to attend Tuesday night’s City Council meeting where Prescott Sherrod was appointed to fill a council vacancy, making him the only minority councilperson on the 11-member board in Virginia Beach. He also became only the third African- American to ever serve on City Council in the city’s history.

While the City Council had at least

a half-dozen finalists to select from in making its decision, Vice Mayor Louis Jones said Sherrod is a “team player” and “he’s qualified.” Mayor Sessoms said the council picked the best candidate. However, Councilman Bill DeSteph, the lone dissenter in the voting process, said at least three other candidates were more qualified. Personally, I really don’t see this simply being all about Prescott Sherrod as an individual. It’s a much bigger issue than that in Virginia Beach, the largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Even

Sherrod himself was quoted in

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper this week saying, “The city has a lot of other issues.” He’s right, and many of them are rooted in history.

From an historical perspective,

and with few exceptions, the Meyera Oberndorf era of serving as mayor in the city being one of those exceptions, African-Americans and other peoples of color have not been seriously considered in a fair, equitable, and just manner by council members sitting around the table when decisions have been made. Keep in mind now, that the city’s total population is approximately 480,000 people, including about 90,000 African-Americans (about 20 percent), and a grand total minority population of almost 35 percent, and

yet its council in recent years was still an all-white one until this week. In my view, there’s simply something wrong with that kind of council make-up, if you will. If I’ve ever heard of taxation without representation, and I have, this is it.

Perhaps the phrase “team player”

has multiple meanings. However, it just doesn’t seem that appropriate here in the 21st Century, that there’s only room for one minority council member to be a “team player” with an otherwise all-white City Council in a city with approximately a 35 percent minority population. Personally, I know enough about Mayor Sessoms and his views pursuant to certain things and some people dating all the way back to the 1988-89 Greekfest fiasco which occurred in Virginia Beach, that I can truly say, thank God in heaven that Meyera Oberndorf was serving as our mayor during that time. The majority of right-thinking voters will have yet another opportunity and privilege of voting with a clear conscience in November. It will be in the best interest of “all the residents” of our diverse city if we go to the voting booths and collectively elect a mayor who is seriously concerned with the city’s total population.

Perhaps Councilman Bob Dyer

expressed the voter’s sentiments best as he was also quoted in The Virginian-Pi- lot this week saying, “The City Council had its say tonight, the public will have their say in November.” Thanks Bob! This is Year 2011 and going forward... not backwards. The time has long come for diversity, inclusiveness, and fairness in representation on the City Council in our beloved City of Virginia Beach. Now, let us all pray for people in authority, leadership and decision- making capacities both locally and nationally (1st Timothy 2:1-2).

Submitted by: Elder Gerald DeForest Tyler, an

ordained minister with years of senior pastoral experience. Mailing address: 1881 University Drive, Virginia Beach, VA, 23453. Office telephone number: (757) 368-4156.

August 2011

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