COLUMN — We got tired
Published 12:18 pm Thursday, January 28, 2021
We got tired of living under the “Black codes,” that were put in place after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
“Black codes” were restrictive laws designed to limit the freedom of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished. Under “Black codes,” many states required Blacks to sign yearly labor contracts. If they refused, they risked being arrested, fined, and forced into unpaid labor. Plus, a tyranny of other laws that inflicted inhumane limits on Black freedom which emerged into what is called the age of Jim Crow.
From the late 1870s until the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s, regimented racial segregation blighted America’s water fountains, restrooms, restaurants, lodging, and transportation, along with “separate but equal” schools. All of these were legally sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court ( Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) and codified by so-called Jim Crow laws.
The vigorous efforts of white supremacist forces throughout America, allowed lawfully for discrimination to continue with the laws of Jim Crow.
Got tired, going around the back of Ferrell’s Truck Stop, to a small window, where there was a sign over the window in white letters saying, ”Colored.” Blacks cooked the food while passing the front door which had a large sign with white letters saying, “White Only.”
Got tired, of going upstairs though a narrow passageway , with a large sign in white letters saying, “Colored.” to a small room with tattered, worn, brown vinyl theater seats, a couple of wooden plank chairs on a wooden floor, which was often unkept, while passing the large room downstairs, with brightly shining brown vinyl theater seats, brown carpet all nice and clean with a large sign in white letters over the door saying, “White Only.”
Got tired of going to the outhouse with the smell of feces in the air, constructed from old, dried oaks slab and planks, with no toilet paper, but old newspapers lying on the floor, to wipe your butt. You dared not sit down because you could possibly get a wooden splinter in your butt, while you as white could go inside to white commodes and sheets of white toilet paper and a sink to wash your hands.
We got tired of all the Jim Crow laws meant to keep us as Blacks down. Not being able to vote, paying poll tax, sitting in the back of the bus , hosed down with fire hoses, being called the “N” word, “boy,” and “Mammy.” White systemic racism even made the lynching of our ancestors a spectator sport. We were angered, and with the ways in which we were treated. We got tired!
So, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, our leader, who fought with his whole self, his spirit, with passion and purpose, inspired us as Africans Americans. He was anointed and appointed to speak out against racism, poverty, and war. Dr. King was brave and willing to be the messenger through his sermons, peaceful marches, demonstrations and even being arrested and going to jail. This man, along with his wife, Coretta Scott King, and followers, humbly, led us forward while trusting the Big G to led him forward to his “Dream.”
I can tell you my father got tired of what he faced in our small community , Saxe, Drakes Branch, Chase City, and all the surrounding areas of the county and state.
He would watch Walter Cronkite each night and attend local NAACP meetings. My father was a self-made man who I watched grow his business despite Jim Crow. He owned a pulpwood and logging business, co-owned a local grocery store, yet I never quite understood at that time why he was always helping other Blacks to own their own homes and their own business.
He always was seeking a way to outsmart yet co-exist with whites in the community. Sometimes he would just shake his head and pray, but always appeared to being inspired by the words of Dr. King.
Every time I watched him watch Dr. King on the TV I knew that he was inspired, by the smile on his face and his words, saying, “That’s right.” or “Amen.”
On Aug. 28, 1963, my brother and I were awakened at 4 a.m. and told to wash up and get dressed so we could have breakfast. I was 17 years old and I cannot remember exactly what I wore, but it had to have been my plaid green and gold straight pencil-like skirt with my gold sleeveless blouse because it always was my go-to and favorite outfit. I was putting it on with my black and white saddle shoes and white bobby socks when I was told to hurry up and be dressed.
I knew something was up because, my chore of milking the cow was left undone, nor did my brothers had have to get wood and feed the hogs. We hurriedly ate our breakfast of scrambled eggs and ham with warmed up biscuits from the night before. My Mom packed us fried bologna sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made on white Marita bread. She also has had two Thermos jugs, one filled with water and the other was with strawberry Kool-Aid.
She packed the sandwiches in a large brown paper grocery bag. We were instructed by Dad to get in the car, a grey and white Chevrolet station wagon and we pulled out at 5:30 a.m. headed for where I did not know, nor did I ask questions.
I knew we were going the way we usually go to Richmond, because we stopped at a friends to use their outhouse or bathroom. My brothers, Kenneth, 12, and John Ed, 16, had no idea either.
They were just being their usual annoying selves with their rumble and tussle ways, while I sat quietly. Four hours later, we arrived amid the largest crowds that I had ever seen.
In sheer amazement, I realized I was in the a crowd of more than 200,000 people.
My dad found us a space to park and we gathered our lunch and liquids and followed him.
We moved forwarded with the movement of the crowd, sticking closely with our parents and people singing “We Shall Overcome,” to space beneath a tree on the right side of a long pool. People held signs that said, “We march for integrated schools,” “No more Jim Crow,” “Voting rights and jobs.”
I thought I should be full of fear, but it felt more like a homecoming that we had at church, only there were Black and white people together, all friendly and nice.
The smile on my Dad’s face I will never forget because he knew what I did not know, just how important this march was to him and other Black people.
I could hear the speakers, and I remember being able to hear Mahalia Jackson sing, because my Mom made us be as quiet as we could in a crowd of this size, for Ms. Jackson was one of my Mom’s favorites. I know there were speakers, but when Dr. King spoke, I knew something was different.
You would have thought it was the Almighty, because everyone was quiet, and roaring applause that went on, yet up and down in volume. I still had no idea of what I was a part of. I know I was not allowed to run around freely as my brothers roamed and played with the other boys. It felt like I was in a “Dream” and attempting to grasp the immensity of this day and its events. Was it live or was it make-believe?
To me at that time, with my inquisitive mind, I was not allowed to ask questions. I only knew that it was a long day, and it was especially important to my father that we as a family participate.
The people were all freely singing just like in church and praising God and smiling. Then it was time to leave, and we rode in silence home. I slept all the way back, along with my brothers.
It was a big deal in our community that we had gone to Washington. I did not realize until about 10 years later the significance of what I was privy to be a part of. I was and remain grateful to my father for being a leader.
I never even discussed it with anyone until I moved to New York in 2002 and they were celebrating Dr. King Day. I was the speaker, and I spoke about it as the Director of the Dole Senior Citizen Center.
Now, 58 years later. I have finally connected the dots.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights bill, putting an end to Jim Crow and so much more, and in 1965, the Voting Rights bill.
After the insurrection on January 6, I clearly was aware that I participated in a peaceful protest to further the rights for all to be treated as equal. No lives were lost, and only unity, with a plea from Dr. King “to cash in the promissory note” that all are equal, and no more segregation and racism.
Dr. King’s “ March On Washington” will be known in history for many generations as the most peaceful demonstration to happen. I was given the honor because of my father’s dedication to his beliefs and his support of Dr. Martin Luther King ‘s Dream, to participated in history.
I am now alive to tell this story and to educate others on how important it is to being a part of the solution.
We must together, continue to dream, visualize, then capture what our soul is guiding us to become. And like Jacob’s ladder the rungs go higher and higher.
Yemaja Jubilee is a poet, author, inspirational speaker, creative consultant, and TV/radio personality.