This I Believe

Christopher - Leavenworth, Kansas
Entered on March 4, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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[This I Believe]


We lost one of the last remaining heroic people and colorful characters from the old neighborhood where our sibling family lived during most of our collective childhood years. This is the neighborhood from childhood times when most of us were actually old enough to be aware of what was going on around us everyday as individuals engaged in life. The street is there, but that place is gone now… I had the privilege of representing our family at her final services that were held at the black Baptist church of that town. Like our own parents, this lady was among the generation of people who nurtured our society through those darkest of times, where the inherent conditions of racism and segregation were upheld by law. She was one of the last of those middle aged adults from our old neighborhood who actively shepherded my generation of black youth growing up in that town into and beyond what came to be known as the Civil Rights Era. Activities centered on church were foundational to this.

Our sibling family had lived in several places due to the fact that our dad was a member of the active duty military service for several years and during a significant period of the sibling family history. Most of us traveled. The first picture that was originally included with this article is actually a view from the front door of our military family housing unit on one of the last Air Force bases we ever lived at. The star of the picture is our family dog named Laddie. Laddie joined our family upon our return stateside from having lived in France, to live with us in Michigan and Colorado. He was part of the family. When our dad’s time in service was done and our family moved permanently back home to Kansas, Laddie made that final move with us as well, but after several months he was gone without a trace.

Our parents have speculated almost every conceivable scenario as to the reason behind Laddie’s mysterious disappearance. We don’t know to this day what actually happened to him though. Coupled simultaneously with the departure of Laddie the dog, our family had made another move and left the integrated society of active duty military service – we had ultimately joined a new neighborhood and a new society.

The paradigm of United States society of the early 1960s featured segregation and racism as real and integral parts of daily life. Significance here is that this neighborhood would also turn out to be our last shared sibling community. And, that environment would also shape the trajectory of our individual paths, as we each departed home to engage what would ultimately become our independent adult lives, manifestos and professional careers.

Yep, that little dusty road with the grain elevators at the end of it was a pretty big avenue in reality – like most black sections of town it was our own society within the greater society, if you will. The other picture posted with this article is from my homecoming performance several years ago at the annual music festival held in that community. I was featured with my group on the main stage and in the audience you can see several black people. This lady is among them in the picture. I am a witness to the fact that she was among those adults in our last sibling community who helped youth by trying to contribute what they could toward providing a nurturing environment. Most all of these folks were often all too human, but they still contributed something positive in this important regard. And, ultimately, history validates that they were very brave and courageous in helping to realize the biggest human rights changes in modern societal history. Because of them we are free to pursue happiness.

We lost another heroine, it is true. And yes, there are not many left among our elders of that community and from those times. So, I was honored to be able to pay proper respects and wish her family peace – from all of us. However, I sincerely believe that the people of that generation will never completely leave us. Their contribution has such a huge impact upon subsequent generations.

We siblings are all now middle aged and have lived as elders for a while now. So, I believe that it is good to remember that we had some good teachers to emulate in these folks. We honor them by being like them in those good things. It is like a circle…