Sunday, December 27, 2009

When Austin was still a Jim Crow city, my father showed me the way.

This essay about a father's quest to get an education and the lessons he passed on to his daughter was very moving. The writer reminded me of how far we have come. She also reminded me of the generation that changed the world -- THE GREATEST BLACK GENERAITON -- When Austin was still a Jim Crow city, my father showed me the way.

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Black World War II veterans offer lessons for today’s black youths

In the late 80s noted journalist and author, the late Carl Rowan wrote in an editorial that he did not understand how the black youths of that time could complain about being oppressed. Rowan noted that black youths of the 80s had not had to endure what their black ancestors had endured and that each generation stood on the shoulders of people who had endured and persevered during unimaginable persecution.

When I read that column it reminded me of how fortunate I was and that I had incredibly strong ancestors to thank for my opportunities. Rowan complained the same message is still true. Today there are black or African American (whichever you prefer) youths who are not living up to the legacy their ancestors left for them. When I am asked why I believe it is important to write about a period in our nation’s history that happened so long ago I have defer to Rowan’s article. Rowan reminded that if my ancestors endured slavery, Jim Crow laws perhaps my difficulties are not so bad. Rowan was part of the greatest black generation and served in the navy during World War II. He was one of the first black men to receive commissions as naval officer.

WHAT DID WORLD WAR II INVISIBLE WARRIORS ENDURE?
For black men, such as my uncle who was drafted in 1944, military life was no better than civilian life – they were still laborers, domestics or servants. Some men such accepted their lot, others refused to be servants even in the military. Yet some invisible warriors beat the odds.
For example, Virginia native Samuel L. Gravely, Jr decided not to wait for a draft notice to arrive. Soon after the war began he dropped out of school and enlisted in the navy. His cousin was already a steward in the navy but he didn't want to be a cook. Gravely also said he knew he did not want to join the army. "My father had spent three years in the army and he did not like it. Most people told me that in the navy they slept in clean beds at sea. In the army, they slept in mud holes or tents. I just felt the navy would give me a better life," http://www.visionaryproject.org/gravelysamuel/#2

The opportunity to do something other than cook came in 1942 when the navy began enlisting black men in general job specialties. Gravely took advantage of the new policy and signed up as a fireman apprentice. He would train to work in the engineering, boiler room or fire room and assist with ship-to-ship transfer at sea of fuel and supplies. Navy tradition dictates that every new recruit spends six months cooking in the galley but, Gravely avoided this detail by volunteering to clean his unit's living quarters. Cleaning detail led to managing the bowling alley. Soon there would be more opportunities for the young sailor as well as challenges.

Subsequently Gravely would earn the right to a commission as a naval reserve officer and eventually become the first black admiral in the navy. I was fortunate to serve in his command and in May 2009 the navy commissioned the guided missile destroyer USS Gravely to honor the late admiral.
Gravely was not the only invisible warrior who refused to be a steward – Performing the work of domestics, serving as cooks and doing menial jobs such as cleaning up in the galley, the wardroom and living quarters of officers. Robert Sharpe, who was a teenager living in Jamaica with his mother and grandparents on December 7, 1941 never thought the events, "on the other ocean" would affect him. However, Sharpe's American father lived in Eastern North Carolina where Sharpe soon traveled in order to finish high school. Once in the United States the young Jamaican-American had to register for the draft. Sharpe received his letter with the familiar salutations two months before he was due to graduate from Pattilo High School in Tarboro, North Carolina. "I was drafted into the navy, but they agreed to let me graduate before I had to take the train to Bainbridge, Maryland for training," Sharpe said.

From the moment, Sharpe arrived in Maryland for basic training he began challenging what he describes as the "racist status quo." In boot camp, he gave his company commander a bloody nose, but fortunately, nothing happened to him.
Also in boot camp, he learned he was expected to become a steward. He did not want to be a steward as he saw no logical reason to wait on commissioned officers. However, Sharpe's superiors ignored his protest and Sharpe soon found himself onboard a navy ship waiting on officers. "I didn't come into the military to be a servant. They wanted me to make their beds and I said 'I won't do that.' So they put me on report and I spent thirty days in the brig on bread and water. Then they sent me back to the brig for thirty more days. Next they decided to let me work in the galley (the kitchen of ship). In the galley I watched a steward's mate from Alabama come running into the galley to get an officer some butter, I was so disgusted with him I stuck my foot out and he went flying across the deck (floor) and back to the brig I went. Finally they decided I would be better suited for the deck force (scraping paint and painting the side of the ship)."

Sharpe later became one of the first black men to receive formal training to become a hospital corpsman and today in his 80’s he is a college professor at my alma mater, North Carolina Central University. Thus, the lesson for today’s black youths is that invisible warriors made the odds much better for today’s generation to succeed.

Copyright © 2009 by Sharon Dense Powell ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ARMED FORCES CANNOT TAKE A CHRISTMAS BREAK

It is hard to imagine not being able to be at home with family and love ones during the holidays but this is the plight of service members. For the last eight years thousands of military men and women have been in harm’s way on Christmas Day – Fortunately service members have an uncanny ability to look after each other especially during the holidays.

This Christmas they are onboard ships ready to respond where they are needed. Others are standing watch, patrolling, providing escorts or in combat. Their Christmas Day meal may be a MRE (Meals Ready to Eat), or turkey and trimmings prepared in a tent galley or onboard a ship. The meal may not compare to a home cooked meal, but it will do. In the end each sailor, soldier, airman, marine and Coast Guardsman will rally together and offer support to their comrades. Some will pray that next year they will be home with their families -- others will pray for peace and safety. And when the meal is over they will go back to doing what they were trained to do – The men and women of the greatest military in the world will continue to defend and protect their country.

Merry Christmas to the men and women of the armed forces and God speed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

INVISIBLE WARRIORS -- WORLD WAR II BLACK AMERICANS FIGHT TO SERVE

In the chaotic days after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor hundreds of patriotic American men rushed to recruiting stations – ready to defend their country. Others waited undecided about how they should respond.

On December 7, 1941 in Indianapolis future army medic and West Virginia native, Frank James was at work in the autopsy room of Indianapolis City Hospital. "I was listening to my radio and it was interrupted. There was a special announcement that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. This left me quite disturbed but at the time I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was," he writes in his 2007 memoir titled Capers of a Medic.

James knew his life was about to change. He writes that he had experienced discrimination but still felt a fierce love for his country. "It stirred my patriotic blood and I knew from the very moment I heard the news that I simply couldn't sit at home and know our country was being attacked by an enemy."

That night James went home and told his wife, Ada he was going to join the army on Monday morning. "Ada was upset because I was going to volunteer, so I told her maybe I would not be accepted. Maybe I would be classified as a 4Fer, (anyone classified as disabled or unfit to serve in the military) but I simply must go down tomorrow and volunteer and wait and see what the result will be." James writes that he did not get much sleep that night.

In a historically black university (HBCU), Johnson C. Smith University, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a pre-theological student and future marine, Thomas McPhatter, was just another college freshman with a reputation as a radical. He would barely escape expulsion for his role in a campus protest after a coed was mistakenly accused of "un-lady-like behavior," remembers McPhatter. December 7, 1941 would change his life – he would soon become a Montford Point Marine – the first black men allowed to become marines.

In San Diego, California, James (Pete) Ludlow who as a young boy often stood outside the fence at Naval Air Station North Island watching ace navy pilots, all Caucasian, wheeling in formation in Curtis SA-3 Seaplanes, or Scout Seaplanes and dreamed of flying. When the war started he would rush to the nearest Navy Recruiting Station to enlist only to learn blacks could not become navy pilots.

In Richmond, Virginia, news of the attack would mean another college student at Virginia Union University, freshman Samuel L. Gravely Jr. the son of an army veteran would soon trade his newly earned Greek letters as an Alpha Phi Alpha for Navy seaman strips.
# # #

"UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU (IF YOU ARE WHITE)!"

The response to the attack was immediate, on Monday morning; men began lining up outside store front offices with signs in the windows that read, "Uncle Sam wants you!" What the signs did not say was "except if you are black," as many young black men quickly learned.

Young and some old men throughout the country began flocking to recruiting stations. Black men were often turned away. In an Indianapolis Army Recruiting Station, one young man who was ready to fight was Charles T. Kelly but when he spoke with an army recruiter, he was disappointed to learn the only jobs available for him were digging ditches or building bridges. "I didn't want to dig ditches," he said. He decided to try his luck with the navy.

Frank James was met with the same disappointing words when he went to enlist even though he worked as a hospital orderly. In spite of the mistreatment by recruiters, he would enlist and struggle to get the opportunity to become an army medic.

In Raleigh North Carolina John Hope Franklin, a young college professor was ready to leave his teaching position at St Augustine's College in order to serve. In an interview for a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary he said, "I went down to the recruiting office, the navy to volunteer. I volunteered in response to the call they made specifically for men to operate the offices. The recruiter for the navy said, 'What can you do?' I said, “Well, I can, run an office. I can type. I can take shorthand if that’s needed.” I said, “And, oh, yes, I have a Ph.D. in history from Harvard. I wondered what he was going to say. He said, 'You have everything, but your color.' And, I said, “Well, I thought there was an emergency, but obviously there is not, so I bid you a good day. And I vowed that day that they would not get me, because they did not deserve me. If I was able – physically, mentally, every other kind of way, able and willing to serve my country – and my country turned me down on the basis of color, then my country did not deserve me. And I vowed then that they would not get me," historian and author, John Hope Franklin, >http://www.pbs.org/thewar/at_war_democracy_african_american.htm<.

Those who were accepted soon learned life in the military was no different from life on the outside – with few exceptions they would become stewards, cooks, domestics, or stevedores, not pilots or infantrymen or office clerks.
Copyright © 2009 by Sharon Dense Powell ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Monday, December 7, 2009

DECEMBER 7, 1941 -- A CALL TO ARMS

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast with
breaking news that Japan has launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and has declared war on Britain and the United States. Details of the attack in Hawaii are scarce but initial reports say Japanese bombers and torpedo-carrying planes targeted warships, aircraft and military installations in Pearl Harbor, on Oahu, the third largest and chief island of Hawaii."
National Broadcasting Company

As dive-bombers descended on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, across the United States, Americans went about their normal Sunday routine. It was cloudy and chilly in San Diego, California. Further east, in Chicago it was also "a chilly, gray afternoon that threatened snow," writes Perry R. Duis, W.O.R.L.D W.A.R II, December 7, 1941 Chicagoans and World War II, Historical Research and Narrative http://www.lib.niu.edu/2002/iht920202.html. Soon news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was relayed around the world by telephone, telegraph and teletype.

Radio listeners were enjoying music, dramas, public affairs programs, and football. But at 2:22 p.m., a one-line bulletin flashed over the Associated Press wire. “Within minutes, all four networks began relaying news of the attack. Radio covered the story in depth -- perhaps the most chilling moment was when the voice of an announcer at NBC's Honolulu affiliate, proclaims, ‘This is no joke!’” Old Time Radio Moments of the Century, By Elizabeth McLeod, http://www.old-time.com/mcleod/top100.htm.

"Special editions of the newspapers hit the streets, vendors shouting as loudly as they could. At Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals were playing, hundreds of fans wandered out to buy papers before half-time; soon the game was of very minor interest," writes Duis. Newsboys in Oklahoma City stood on sidewalks yelling "Extra, Extra" as they peddled their five-cent special edition hot off the presses – the headline, read "JAPANESE ATTACK HAWAII AND MANILA FROM THE AIR." And in New York City, nearly 55,051 cheering fans who were packed into the Polo Grounds watching the Brooklyn Dodgers play the Giants heard news of the attack.

On the Caribbean Island of Jamaica future sailor, Jamaican-American Robert Sharpe, who was only sixteen, could not imagine how the events of that day would affect his young life. "I was sitting on the veranda of our shack in May Pen, an area in Clarendon Parish, listening to my mother's parents talk about the British and how they took the island from the Spaniards, and how the local people were treated by the British. I had never heard of Pearl Harbor. Everybody became excited and was saying how they knew the Americans would respond and wipe out the Japanese." Soon Sharpe would join his American father in Tarboro, North Carolina, a small town 60 miles east of Raleigh, the capital. His draft notice would arrive within days of his graduation from W. A. Patillo High School in Tarboro.

Meanwhile, in Raleigh, Georgia, native Durrell Russer, a young soldier on a weekend pass, was spending time with his pregnant wife. Outside their window in the street they heard people yelling, "Attack; the Japs (sic) just bombed Pearl Harbor!"

"People came out in the street and started yelling,” Russer remembers. Like Sharpe Russer did not know where Pearl Harbor was. The young soldier and his wife huddled around their radio where they heard, "All soldiers on furlough are ordered to return to camp." Raleigh was still a small town in 1941 and the bus station was in walking distance to the couple's small rooming house. Russer's wife, Hester, said a prayer then the young couple walked slowly to the bus station unsure of each other's safety -- after all, the nation was under attack.

Dressed in his smart, starched and pressed olive drab "Class A" dress uniform, and wearing spit shined shoes Russer boarded a bus for the 50-mile ride back to Fort Bragg Army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. On the bus, he would have to walk past empty seats in the front of the bus. As he made his way to the back of the bus more than likely he brushed passed a tobacco farmer or cotton farmer, perhaps a minister, or church deacon, all white and all of whom probably avoided his eye contact. On that bus that Sunday evening there were probably other soldiers wearing the same uniform, the only difference was the color or their skin. It is unlikely that any of the white soldiers would have offered this young black soldier a seat, as he was not allowed to sit in the front of the bus in spite of his uniform. He was an American GI ready to defend the white Americans he brushed by on his way to the back of the bus – the "colored section." Perhaps on this Sunday someone in the "White's Only Section" might have felt a twinge of regret at seeing a soldier who was about to risk his life for them relegated to the back of the bus.

That night as Russer traveled back to camp all across America, families began to experience that sinking feeling that comes with fear of the unknown. Mothers and fathers across the nation began to realize their sons were about to go into harm's way and might never return. The next day back on base, Russer gathered with other soldiers around radios and anxiously waited to hear encouraging words from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. What Russer and the other soldiers heard from Roosevelt was that the United States had been “suddenly and deliberately attacked."

Four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Congress declared war on the Axis powers Japan, Italy and Germany – the country was at war.
Copyright © 2009 by Sharon Dense Powell ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Monday, November 30, 2009

INVISIBLE WARRIORS – BLACK SERVICE MEMBER OF WORLD WAR II

What did military service during World War II mean for "Invisible Warriors"? To be invisible meant they were unseen, unnoticed, imperceptible and believed to be ineffective. The narrator of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man explains that he is not invisible because of a scientific experiment but rather because of others unwillingness to notice him, as he is black.
This was the plight of black service members during World War II. And like the narrator in Ellison's book, invisible warriors needed to make others recognize them.

Invisible warriors rarely appear in official images from that war, but they were there. Almost 900 black Montford Point Marines took part in the battle of Iwo Jima, including former marine and retired Navy Captain, Thomas McPhatter. The North Carolina native who landed on Iwo Jima with the Eighth Ammunition Company complained loudly in 2005 when director Clint Eastwood released Flags of Our Fathers, a movie chronicling the invasion. No black marines appeared in the movie, much to McPhatter's distress.
McPhatter says he provided a piece of pipe used for the first flag up on Iwo Jima. This detail did not make it into the film. "Of all the movies that have been made of Iwo Jima, you never see a black face," says McPhatter. “I feel like I have been denied. I have been insulted. I have been mistreated. But what can you do? We still have a strong underlying force in my country of rabid racism."*

McPhatter was one of the first blacks accepted into the Marine Corps and trained at Montford Point, a segregated camp in North Carolina. Now a retired Naval Reserve Captain living in a San Diego nursing home, McPhatter says he complained to Eastwood's staff about the movie and black actors were added to opening shots of the landing.

The institutional racism of the military in the forties meant there were not many black service members of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, only 1.2 million were black. Yet they proved their loyalty to their country by serving during a time of need, thus making it possible for future generations to serve their country, too. The black service member's story is no different from the story of the white service member. Some were heroic, and others not so heroic. Some were qualified to do their jobs while others were not, just like any other ethnic or racial group who joined the military. There was one major exception, which made the black experience unique – black service members such as McPhatter, and so many of his peers had limited opportunities. Nevertheless, they discredited the prevailing stereotype of "unfit to fight." Case-in-point, Missouri native, Stewart B. Fulbright, Jr., who became one of the first black men trained as a military pilot helped debunk the stereotype of "unfit to fight."

Today’s black service members stand on the shoulders of invisible warriors, including those of the truck drivers of the Red Ball Express, the convoy system used to supply forces moving through Europe following the D-Day invasion of beaches in Normandy. The shoulders that hold up today’s generation also belong to the first all-black crew of a U.S. Navy ship, and the men of the 761st Tank Battalion who helped liberate at least one concentration camp and the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division.
These invisible warriors came home, demanded equality, invigorated the civil rights movement, and forced open doors for future generations.
Copyright © 2008 by Sharon Dense Powell All rights reserved

*Absent from history: the black soldiers at Iwo Jima guardian.co.uk, October 20 2006 by Dan Glaister in Los Angeles

Thursday, November 26, 2009

FAMOUS FLAG BARERER PASSES

Another invisible warrior has joined the ranks of service members who are now only known to history. Army World War II veteran and Birmingham civil rights leader, long-time barber James Armstrong dies by Erin Stock -- The Birmingham News November 18, 2009, 12:40PM http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2009/11/birmingham_civil_rights_leader.html Remembering civil rights leader James Armstronghttp://www.southernstudies.org/2009/11/remembering-civil-rights-leader-james-armstrong.html
Armstrong is one of the 1.2 millions black service members who proved their loyalty to their country by serving during a time of need, thus proving their loyalty to their county. More importantly invisible warriors such as Armstrong came home, demanded equality, invigorated the civil rights movement, and forced open doors for my generation – In 1965 he carried the American flag across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama as state troopers beat back marchers in what became known as Bloody Sunday. He earned the right to carry the flag by answering the call when he received his draft notice in 1944.
Soldiers were fighting the world's worst racist, Adolph Hitler, in the world's most segregated army," says historian and National Geographic explorer in residence Stephen Ambrose. "The irony did not go unnoticed says historian and National Geographic explorer in residence Stephen Ambrose. Black Soldiers in WW II: Fighting Enemies at Home and Abroad Lisa Krause
National Geographic News (February 15, 2001) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/02/0215_tuskegee.html
Stephen Ambrose wrote about the irony of black soldiers in the world's most segregated army fighting the world's worst racist, Hitler. Why would black Americans want to risk their lives in a war that many perceived as "the White man's business?" Ambrose told Krause that “World War II gave the Civil Rights Movement its spark.”
Civil Rights Icon James Armstrong Dies By Debbie Elliott http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2009/11/civil_rights_icon_james_armstr.html
Selma-to-Montgomery March http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/civilrights/al4.htm
I have heard much about the march to Selma – I was just a child. I have seen film clips of the march but I did not understand the significance of Armstrong carrying the American flag – he earned the right to carry that flag by serving in the army in Europe during World War II. I’ve decided to find out as much as I can about this invisible warrior – more to come.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BLACK WORLD WAR II VETS HAVE STORIES TO TELL

In a November 15 article Andre Salles, a news reporter with The Beacon-News in Aurora, Illinois notes that every World War II veteran has a story worth telling. Salles writes about Aurora resident, William "Paul" Vaughn who Salles says has a perspective on the war shared by very few – being black in a segregated Army fighting for freedoms he did not have. William "Paul" Vaughn has a perspective on the war shared by very fewUnited we stood; segregated he served :: Beacon News :: Local News

Another veteran's story worth telling is the story of Tuskegee Airman Quentin Smith, written by John WolfeQuentin Smith fought World War II on two fronts :: Opinion :: Post-Tribune Tuskegee Airmen were black pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Smith's perspective on the war is similar to Vaugh's perspective -- these men were struggling to break the color barrier.

Nearly 909,000 black men and women served in the Army during World War II, according to writer Eric L. Wesson. Among them was James H. Jones, 96, who was drafted in 1941 and served in the 761st Tank Battlion, 3rd Army under General George Patton. Black Soldiers Played Key Roles In America’s Battles http://www.kccall.com/article.cfm?articleid=3998

Historians have observed that Patton did not believe blacks were qualified to fight but he desperately needed every available man to defeat Germany – the 761st joined the fight along with the all-black 92nd Infantry Division. One of the men from the 92nd was a 29-year-old soldier from Cincinnati, Ohio named John R. Fox; he was killed in action on the day after Christmas in 1944. Fifty-three years later, Fox was awarded the highest honor a combat soldier can earn - the Medal of Honor.Black vets 'have story to tell'

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There are many more stories that need to be told. Writers are finding black World War II veterans who are eager to share their stories. It is a race against time -- They are stooped with age, walk with canes, walkers or are wheelchair bound -- Soon their voices will be silent, but their stories will keep them alive for future generations.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, November 13, 2009

ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY MEMBERS AND VETERANS DESERVE HELP TOO

This year disabled veterans and military retirees will not get their annual cost-of-living adjustment. I understand the rationale behind this decision. The cost-of-living index or COLA is equal to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the next. If there is no increase, there is no COLA http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/COLA/latestCOLA.html. Apparently there was no increase this year -- oh well.

Never the less, I imagine most retirees and disabled veterans like me were looking forward to the annual increase regardless of how small that increase might have been. The bailout money Wall Street Bankers such as Goldman Sachs received suggests that they are much more important than the men and women who risk their lives for our country.

There are 20,000 homeless veterans right now additionally there are active duty members who are forced to make multiple tours to Iraq and Iran, while their families struggle to make ends meet. I am not homeless, nor so destitute that a lack of cost-of-living increase will break me, but there are millions of veterans and active duty military members who are struggling and need help just as much or even more help than Wall Street Bankers.

Writer Dylan Ratigan offers a novel solution for present and former warriors -- Dylan Ratigan: Veterans: Lip Service, Bankers: Billions & America: Foreclosures - Here's The Fix
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dylan-rati... I think he presents a strong argument for providing homeownership to Iraqi vets – there is already assistance from the Veterans Administration for home buyers but Ratigan's idea is very different from simply guaranteeing a percentage of the mortgage. Time will tell if our elected officials consider his suggestion. In the meantime, next January I will quietly deal with not getting a COLA increase just like all the other disabled veterans and retired military members.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, Armistice Day: The Differences | The News is NowPublic.com


Last week an Army doctor who had taken an oath to "do no harm" opened fire on his fellow soldiers -- the most egregious act one soldier, shipmate, airman or marine could commit. Those of us who believe we are rational people are trying to understand how a soldier can pick up a gun and fire it with the intent to kill his fellow comrades – those same comrades who in combat would have risked their lives for him. There is no rational explanation for what happened. All we can do is learn from this – find ways to make sure this never happens again.

In hindsight there were probably clear indications to suggest this man was not suitable for the Army and was possibly a threat to himself and others. There will be investigations, there will even be finger pointing. Ultimately, we have to understand that sometimes we cannot predict human behavior. We don’t expect an individual who has taken the Hippocratic Oath and sworn to respect for all human life to commit such a heinous act. Now we must focus on the families and offer them our support.

Those of us who practice a religion should to pray to the God of our understanding whether we call our God Jehovah, Allah or Buddha and ask our God to be with families of our fallen comrades and the families of the wounded warriors and our nation.

Today is Veterans Day, which began as Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I. In the British Isle today is Remembrance Day in commemoration of sacrifices made during World War I and November 11th 1918 the end of WWI.
Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, Armistice Day: The Differences | The News is NowPublic.com


Whether the day is called Veterans Day, Armistice Day of Remembrance Day, it is a wonderful opportunity to pause and thank the men and women who have serve our nation so gallantly. It is an opportunity to thank them for going into harm’s way to protect our nation. This is particularly poignant for today’s service members who are a part of an all volunteer force – the men and women of today’s military have all volunteered they were not drafted – they chose to wear the uniform. Regardless of our view about war these men and women deserve to be honored for their service and sacrifices.

Monday, November 9, 2009

WRITER HAS WRONG VIEW OF VETERAN'S DAY -- News Tribune - Sound Off - Open Forum (Nov. 5): Veterans Day should not be celebrated

In an opinion posted at NewsTrib.com November 5, the writer Michael Hall writes that he loathes Veterans Day. “I don’t glorify but rather vilify this perversion of a day that should be mourned for its stupidity not reveled for its insanity,” he writes. OPEN FORUM (NOV 5) VETERANS DAY SHOULD NOT BE CELEBRATED
.News Tribune - Sound Off - Open Forum (Nov. 5): Veterans Day should not be celebrated

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It is unfortunate that Hall feels this way and I don’t agree with him. I believe it is good that American citizens feel compelled to come to the aid of their country. There have been times in the past when there was no real justification for war, but that is a decision the military leaves to the politicians we elect. A warrior’s responsibility is to protect and defend. Case-in-point would be World War II -- When allied forces entered concentration camps soldiers were overwhelmed by the mass of humanity – the men, women and children who were barely alive – at the same time these soldiers were repulsed by the stench from rotting bodies. Hall writes that he deplores war -- Most civilized people deplore war. However, there are times when war is justified -- consider the six million fellow human beings who were killed simply for the religion they practiced, their sexual preference or because they were gypsies – they needed our help. We dropped the ball because we knew about the atrocities early in the war and we did nothing – should we have also dropped the ball by not entering the war? I think not.

Yes, war is horrific – and we hope the day will come when there are no more wars. But the reality is that there are some in the world who wish to inflict their will on others, exploit fellow humans and feel no remorse when they murder – often they are world leaders with the power to threaten humanity. Until human beings learn how to raise children who grow up to respect humanity and do not exploit others or inflict their power and will on innocent citizens there will be a need to defend and protect our nation and other law-abiding nations.

Regardless of our feelings about war we still need to honor the brave men and women who have served our nations, particularly the men and women who gave their lives for this country. The service members who landed on Normandy on June 6, 1944 and pushed their way into France and Europe were there for a noble cause – eventually they defeated Germany and helped to liberate those concentration camps and end the carnage and thus deserve to be honored.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Friday, November 6, 2009

IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO TELL THE INVISIBLE WARRIOR'S STORY?

Someone who is helping me develop a magazine article reminded me that I needed to demonstrate to editors why now is the time to write an article about black World War II service members. Today I read an article about Montford Point Marines.Local event remembers the first modern black Marines | Charlottesville Daily Progress
In the article author, Melton A. McLaren is quoted as saying, “Gradually, that idea that African-Americans were not involved in the Second World War is starting to break down.” I believe this means now is the time to tell the invisible warrior's story.

INVISIBLE WARRIOR:

What did military service during World War II mean for "Invisible Warriors", black service members? To be invisible meant they were unseen, unnoticed, imperceptible and believed to be ineffective. The narrator in author Ralph Ellison's 1952 book, Invisible Man explains that he is invisible not because of some scientific experiment but rather because of unwillingness of other people to notice him, as he is black.

This was the plight of black service men and women during World War II. And like the narrator in Ellison's book, invisible warriors had an aching need to make others recognize them. And just as Ellison's narrator often found that such attempts rarely succeeded so too was the case with black service members.

Invisible warriors rarely appear in official images from that war, but they were there – 1.2 million strong. For example, almost 900 invisible warriors, known as Montford Point Marines, took part in the battle of Iwo Jima, including my fellow North Carolinian former marine and Navy Captain, Thomas McPhatter, who I interviewed for this book. McPhatter who landed on Iwo Jima with the Eighth Ammunition Company complained loudly in 2005 when director Clint Eastwood released Flags of Our Fathers, a movie chronicling the invasion. No black marines appeared in the movie, much to McPhatter's distress. You might think McPhatter overreacted considering that 900 black Marines equaled only about ten percent of the forces. But McPhatter believed there was a consorted effort to keep blacks out of the official military footage. McPhatter remembered news photographers rushing past black marines to photograph white marines. Even today, some white Marines who landed on Iwo Jima still insist there were no black Marines involved in the invasion. Case in point: I have a white acquaintance whose father, a Marine landed on Iwo Jima. When she spoke to her father about my book, her father insisted that the only blacks involved in the invasion were either the Army or Navy. Listening to my friend repeat what her father said helped me understand McPhatter's outrage. I admit that until I began my research for my book I did not have a real appreciation of the heroics of black World War II service men and women.

In a 2006 interview McPhatter told a reporter that he provided a piece of pipe used for the first flag up on Iwo Jima, but this detail did not make it into the film. "Of all the movies that have been made of Iwo Jima, you never see a black face," McPhatter said. "This is the last straw. I feel like I have been denied. I have been insulted. I have been mistreated. But what can you do? We still have a strong underlying force in my country of rabid racism." Absent from history: the black soldiers at Iwo Jima http://www.guardian.co.uk, October 20 2006 by Dan Glaister in Los Angeles.

Perhaps the reason to write magazine articles now profiling invisible warriors is that their stories have to be told before they are all gone. Another reason could be that their is a generation of black youths who are desperately in need of positive stories about the strength and endurance of their ancestors.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT AND THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE

On November 4, 2008 an elderly man stood in line and waited for his turn to walk forward, ninety-two-year-old Samuel Powell stood under an umbrella as a light rain fell; the temperature was barely in the fifties.

Once he was inside a voice asked, “Name please.”

“Samuel Powell,” he replied.

“Do you need help with your ballot?” the voice asked.

“No,” Samuel replied.

He picked up his ballot and walked (without a cane) toward a booth. Once inside the booth he began to scan the names on the ballot – school board member, county commissioner, senator, governor. He saw the choices for president – Barack Hussein Obama or John McCain. Samuel could take pride in knowing that he had made it possible for Barack Obama’s name to be on the ballot – not as a third party candidate – but as a candidate from one of the major parties.

Samuel still remembers the sounds of Japanese fighter planes descending on his cruiser USS Helena. He also remembers the sound of the frantic voice over his ship’s 1MCs (intercom systems) shouting, "General Quarters, general quarters. This is not a drill, this is not a drill, all hands man your battle stations!" It was December 7, 1941 and the 22-year-old African American farm boy from Eastern North Carolina, Steward First Class Samuel Powell was a crewmember on Helena and he and his shipmates had to respond to the “general quarters.” They were in Pearl Harbor Hawaii and they were under attack. On that day Samuel’s past shaped Obama’s destiny and became Barack Obama’s future.

In 1941 America was thrust into a war against Nazism, Imperialism and Fascism but for the 1.2 million black Americans such as Samuel there was a greater battle they had to fight – first for the right to fight as they were not welcomed or wanted – and as Americans against the Axis powers that threatened their country.

African American military members who were invisible (unseen, ignored and unnoticed) warriors worked in kitchens, cooked meals for fellow service members, became stevedores and loaded and unloaded ships, or became truck drivers or grave diggers – a few became fighter pilots, at least one Army unit helped liberate a concentration camp, and many other African Americans demonstrated extraordinary courage against the enemy.

Black service members, including my much older brother Samuel, proved they were Americans first even though they did not enjoy the freedoms they were defending. In 1941 African Americans would not have been able to vote in most southern states – yet the greatest black generation’s service to America paved the way for Barack Obama to become president.

I am a baby boomer and my generation which includes President Barack Obama, stands on the shoulders of Samuel, and the rest of the invisible warriors from World War II. My brother is very humble about his role in making it possible for a black man to become president. I constantly thank him and other World War II veterans I meet for their service. Who Samuel voted for is his business – What is important is that the men and women of his generation who were born before the 1965 voting rights act was passed helped make it possible for an African American to become the leader of the free nation – the archaic ideas and beliefs about race are being swept away thanks to them.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Monday, November 2, 2009

BLACK MILITARY WOMEN WHO PAVED THE WAY

In 1977 when I was a young recruit I learned to march, to salute, and to respect the uniform. I also developed a tremendous respect for the women who have worn military uniforms. I believe military women are an elite group, especially black military women. During World War II these young women faced obstacles not just because they were black but because of their gender as well. Yet they proudly met the challenge and set the bar high for those who followed.

The former Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Major Charity Adams Earley (1918-2002), commander of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in World War II, summarized the history of women in the military when she wrote in 1989, "The future of women in the military seems assured. . . ." What may be lost in time is the story of how it happened. The barriers of sex and race were, and sometimes and still are, difficult to overcome, the second even more than the first,” Earley wrote.

Historical Perspective:

In 1901 and 1908 , the Army and Navy Nurse Corps opened the door for women in the military. When the United States entered World War I, the government realized women could be valuable in uniform. And the Navy led the way by recruiting women as yeomanettes. Nearly 13,000 women enlisted in the Navy and the Marine Corps. The Coast Guard also enlisted several women who served at the Coast Guard headquarters building in Washington, D. C. With the war's end, the Coast Guard Yeomanettes, and their Navy and Marine Corps counterparts left the service. There next opportunity would not come until the second war erupted.

One North Carolina native who served in Europe under Adams Earley is a Raleigh native and classmate of one of the first black men killed during the war – Randolph Williamson, Jr who was killed onboard USS Arizona on December 7, 1941.

In 1942 Millie Dunn Veasey , half-heartedly made a pact with two friends to enlist in the Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps. An Army recruiter convinced the trio to sign enlistment contracts by telling them their enlistments would free male soldiers for assignment overseas. Veasey’s brother was already serving in the Pacific.

The three friends traveled to Fort Bragg Army base to take the entrance exams. Once at Fort Bragg Veasey says she developed cold feet. However, the army recruiter would not let her back out of her commitment to free male soldiers for overseas duty. Veasey did well enough on her entrance exams to qualify for a clerical position and before she knew it, she was in the army. Her brother, Eugene Dunn was already in the army thus Veasey says she had mixed feelings about joining the WAC. She says her brother served in the Pacific in segregated units and endured much worse treatment than his younger sister endured. She also says she often wondered if she was indirectly responsible for his overseas assignment.

Two weeks ago former Senators Elizabeth and Bob Dole organized a trip to Washington for 100 North Carolina World War II veterans to visit the World War II Memorial. One of the veterans who traveled to DC with the Doles was former WAC, Bertha Dupre. Dupre who is black told a Raleigh news caster that “The experience meant more than I ever thought it could," she said. Dupre is a veteran who is still collecting new experiences. At age 87, she is a senior at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte majoring in English and art. Trip to WWII memorial is 'heaven' for N.C. vets, Posted: Oct. 23, 2009.
Trip to WWII memorial is 'heaven' for N.C. vets :: WRAL.com

Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Thursday, October 22, 2009

DO WE STILL NEED MARRIAGE? MY TAKE


I'm still working on Black Women of WW II. In the meantime as a psychologist there are certain social issues I consider important to talk about. Today's topic is marriage and children:

Today I read an article titled Rethinking Marriage. The World Has Changed. It's Time! By Melissa Harris-Lacewell, The Nation. Posted October 19, 2009 http://www.alternet.org/sex/143374/rethinking_marriage._the_world_has_changed._it's_time!?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet.
She asks if marriage is dead and then argues for marriage. Harris-Lacewell reminds those of us who are the descendents of slaves that our ancestors struggled under the most inhuman institution, but found ways to maintain their marriages – marriages that were not recognized by the state. In spite of our ancestors commitment to marriage she notes that today black women are less likely to marry than any other ethnic or racial group. This is troubling as there are more black children born to single mothers than married mothers – Dad is often missing. Research suggests children thrive better in two parent homes -- as long as they are safe and emotionally healthy homes.

I agree with the author when she suggests that marriage -- at least a bad marriage can be unbearable -- been there, done that. I also agree with her when she says that it is possible to have a fulfilling marriage. I guess divorcees like me just have to be willing to take that chance again. The first step in changing the trend is to raise sons who make good husbands.


Another author Patrick Welsh http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/15/AR2009101503477.html?nav=hcmoduletmvin Sunday’s, October 18, 2009 Washington Post Op-Ed Making the Grade Isn't About Race. It's about Parents, argues that the absence of fathers is the main reason many black children do not do well in school and ultimately take out their anger and frustration on society. I agree with this author as well. In defense of single mothers – I am divorced and was a single parent. However, I don’t believe most mothers set out to be single parents – I certainly did not – my marriages failed (yes, there were two). What I've learned as a psychologist is that children need two parents and they blamed themselves when Dad is not there. Children who have loving, nurturing fathers feel safe and loved. They also have a strong desire to excel and are less likely to succumb to negative peer pressure.

WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS? We must encourage our sons to change their value systems. We must help our sons to understand that they cannot simply be sperm donors but rather be husbands and fathers – before their children are conceived. We must also help our daughters to understand the need to postpone sex, focus on understanding what their values are hold out for men who share their values and will be suitable husbands and fathers – before they hop in bed. Fathers must demonstrate to their sons how to be fathers by modeling fathering. Finally, parents of sons must learn to hold those sons to the same expectation they hold their daughters to.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED:

In order to attract readers to my blog I need to write everyday – not always an easy task. Today I wrote an article about the first black women to serve in the military, but I am a perfectionist and decided the article was not ready to post. I write at home without an editor. There are editing services online that proof read, very well, but for a fee – this gets expensive. Thus, the article chronicling the experiences of the first black women in the military (Charity Adams Earley, Commander of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, Suffolk, VA native, Della H. Raney the first black nurse commissioned as a lieutenant, Harriet Ida Pikens and Frances Wills, the first black WAVES sworn in December 22, 1944; and many more) will post later.


I have no shame and if you find a grammar error or typo I welcome comments, feedback, or advice.

But today I will write about what I have learned. The book I am working on is about blacks who served in the military, however, there were numerous individuals of all racial and ethnic groups serving during the war.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED: The world faced a tremendous threat. There were individuals with resources and troops who were capable of inhuman acts – such as marching fellow human beings into gas ovens. I have also learned that there were some courageous people who found ways to hide Jewish families or smuggle them out of the country at tremendous risk to their own lives. I’ve also learned that there were patriotic Americans of Hispanic, Native American, Japanese and European descent who went into harm’s way because they knew this country was under threat.

Yes, mistakes were made – Patriotic American citizens were mistreated – but ultimately the right side won. Now a new generation must deal with dangerous, evil, often hidden enemies. It seems clear to me that lessons of World War II may be of benefit today.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WORLD WAR II INVISIBLE WARRIORS, BLACK MEN AND WOMEN FOUGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO FIGHT



When I was a very young girl I watched black and white World War II movies. The heroes in the movies I watched all seemed larger than life and so romantic – I often imagined myself in a military uniform. I suppose I was destined to follow my brother’s example and enlist in the navy. Fortunately, thanks to the service of the black men and women including my brother, who served during the World War II, I had opportunities that were unavailable to my brother.


Through the years I have studied much about World War II, and the role black men and women played in defending our country, in spite of the segregation that generation endured. I also have come to understand and appreciate that generation's valuable gift to my generation. Indeed, I would not have had the opportunity to serve in the navy and travel to exotic places if not for the selfless service of the 1.2 million black service men and women of my brother's generation. They fought two wars. One was to protect our country's freedom. But, the second required them to fight for the right – the very opportunity – to fight for their country. Their struggle proved that they were relentlessly loyal Americans. Their story is moving.

The story of black World War II service members is not just a black story; this is an American story. This is the story of ordinary Americans who loved their country and in spite of their invisibility, were willing to risk their lives defending freedoms they did not enjoy. They had a unique insight into the dangers Nazism, Fascism and Imperialism represented. The late actor, Ossie Davis, a WW II veteran himself summed it up when he said, "This was our country and we were under attack – we had to fight," in his role as Lorenzo Dufau in the 2005 movie Proud.

They were on the outside looking in, noses pressed against the glass, stamping their feet in the chill, watching the festivities within. Invisible warriors had an aching need to make others recognize them but often found that such attempts rarely succeeded

Their stories are a compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit to endure against remarkable odds. Their commitment to their country is inspiring particularly in view of the discrimination they lived through. They set the example for future generations to follow. They also came home from the war invigorated and ready to revitalize the civil rights movement, thus making it possible for a starry eyed, little farm girl like myself to follow my dream and become a sailor in the greatest navy in the world.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Thursday, October 15, 2009

THE HERO I NEVER MET: THE WORLD WAR II MONTFORD POINT MARINE WHO BECAME A NAVY CHAPLAIN

My heroes include my parents and grandparents, along with my siblings, and aunts and uncles. I never had the chance to meet retired Navy Chaplain and fellow North Carolinian, Capt. Thomas Hayswood McPhatter, USNR (Ret) but he is also my hero.

Last year I interviewed McPhatter by telephone from his nursing home in San Diego several times for my book. I found his name online at http://www.montfordpointmarines.com/About%20us.html. McPhatter was one of the first 1,000 black men to become a US Marine. The devoutly religious Presbyterian chaplain had a compelling life story but before he would agree to tell me his story he needed to know if I was raised in the church. ‘I was raised a Baptist,’ I said. ‘But I’m a Presbyterian now.’ This seemed to ease his concerns and he began to tell me his story. McPhatter was a freshman in college when World War II began. When he heard the Marine Corps was accepting black men he decided to enlist.

Blacks had been barred from joining the Marine Corps by Congress when the branch was first established in 1775. Pressured to change the policy, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Maj. Gen. Thomas Holcomb finally proposed the enlistment of 1,000 blacks in the volunteer Marine Corps Reserve for duty in the general service in a segregated composite defense battalion. They became known as Montford Point Marines in reference to the segregated boot camp at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina which was open from 1942 until 1949.

Sgt. McPhatter served in the Pacific and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. During our second telephone conversation he described the landing – blacks are conveniently left out of most accounts of the famous invasion of the Japanese island. McPhatter was very angry when he saw Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood's 2006 film of the battle. There were no blacks in the movie – much to McPhatter’s chagrin. “We were there, but you wouldn't know it from the movie,” McPhatter said. He remembered standing at debarkation waiting to go over the side of the Landing Ship, Tank (LST) with the first wave of Marines who landed on the beach.

I interviewed McPhatter in 2008 – 64 years after he and the other 900 Marines had risked their lives for black Americans like me – a generation not yet born. As he described climbing over the side of the ship I could hear the fear in his voice. Several books have been written about the Montford Point Marines who landed on Iwo Jima. McPhatter was part of the 8th Marine Ammunition Company. They had to keep the fighting Marines supplied with ammunition – which made the Montford Point Marines easy targets for the enemy, according to McPhatter. They finally got their recognition during a commemoration ceremony in 1995 – after which Chaplain McPhatter said he prayed, saying, “Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, they’ve finally acknowledged use.”

I am a Disaster Assistance Employee with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and travel. On Memorial Day, May 25, 2009 I was in my hotel room in Florida watching the evening news. The photograph of a black naval officer flashed on the screen followed by video of Marines carrying a flag draped coffin. I recognized the man – it was Capt. McPhatter. Instantly I knew I would never get to meet this invisible warrior.

I had called Capt. McPhatter in February. His voice was very weak, he sounded confused and he did not remember me. When I told him I was calling from North Carolina he wistfully said, “I wish I was in North Carolina right now.” Then his voice trailed off. I said goodbye and hung up.

In our final interview last year the chaplain quoted from a poem written by St. Isaac of Nineveh Bishop (c. 660-680), “Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you." The Marine (once a Marine always a Marine) who went into harm’s way to defend freedoms he did not yet enjoy is now at peace. He is back in the Tar Hill state and buried in his hometown of Lumberton, North Carolina.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




Monday, October 12, 2009

NAVY NAMES SHIP FOR CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST MEDGAR EVERS

My beloved navy is naming a supply ship after a slain civil rights leader. This civil rights leader, Medgar Evers (1925-1963) was also one of the 1.2 million African Americans who served during World War II. I stand on his shoulders. His stint in the army made a difference for my generation. And now a navy supply ship will bear his name.Navy Names Ship After Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers
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During the course of my research for my book I learned that many historians attribute the success of the civil rights movement to the African American men and women such as Edgars who returned home after serving during World War II and invigorated the civil rights movement. These black veterans had risked their lives for their country and thus believed they had earned the right to equal treatment and full citizenship.

Army veteran Medgar Edgars, who fought in both France and Germany during World War II before receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, was among that group. When he came home he did what many newly discharged veterans did – he went to college, met the girl of his dreams, got married and tried to achieve the American dream. However, Evers faced unbelievable odds toward achieving that dream – racism and discrimination. Evers began working in 1952 for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Evers organized nonviolent protests, voter registration drives and boycotts in his home state.

Sadly, on June 12, 1963, the 37-year-old Mississippi native was assassinated in the driveway of his home. The war veteran was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. His death prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask the Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill. Since his death there have been many honors to this invisible warrior including naming a college after him and now a ship.

My generation stands on the shoulders of men like Medgar Evers and we owe them a debt of gratitude that perhaps we can never repay. Naming a ship for one of those invisible warriors is the least that we can do. I am so pleased to see that Evers is receiving this honor. It will be two years before USNS Medgar Evers is ready to sail but when she does sets sail the men and women who sail on that ship will be sailing on a ship named for an American hero.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Thursday, October 8, 2009

OFF TO WAR: 1.2 MILLION STRONG: THE STORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II


"The man in uniform must grit his teeth, square his shoulders,
and do his best as a soldier, confident that there are millions of Americans outside the armed forces and more persons than he knows in high places within the military establishment, who will never cease fighting to remove all social barriers and every humiliating practice, which now confronts him. But only by being at all times, a first rate soldier can the man in uniform help in this battle which shall be fought and won."
Judge William H. Hasties, Dean of (HBCU) Howard University Law School, 1943


1942 – As the fighting progressed thousands of young men and eventually young women too, traded their civilian clothes for military uniforms. Some joined, but most men were drafted. After considerable pressure, draft boards began including black men, most in their early twenties in the World War II draft. Anxiously they waited for the notice, some hoping it would not come. It was a coin toss every time the postman came. When a young man received a letter with the salutation "Greetings from the President", he knew he had lost the coin toss and off to the induction station he went. There he had a choice between the Navy, Army, Coast Guard and eventually even the Marine Corps as a Montford Point Marine. Once the new inductee arrived at his training camp, he got a haircut, shots against exotic diseases and uniforms. Now he had to learn how to be a GI.

The wait for a draft notice was often unbearable. In a small farming community in Eastern North Carolina, it took so long for the draft notice to arrive that my uncle, Foster Brown, Sr. assumed he would not be called thus on a rainy Sunday evening, Uncle Foster and his future bride stood on a bridge between Halifax County and Warren County and said their vows. The couple had bought their marriage license in one county but wanted to get married in another county. The minister did not believe the marriage would be legal unless they stood on the county line. With his mother, Eva Brown, and my grandmother, Nora Alston, as witnesses my grandfather, Colonel Tee Alston, Sr. shined his headlights so the preacher could see his Bible, Uncle Foster married my mother's older sister, Alice. Unbeknownst to Uncle Foster he was not off the hook, as he soon received his "Greetings from the President" letter and on May 27, 1942 off to army boot camp Uncle Foster went. From basic training my uncle headed to Italy where he drove supply trucks. Alice waited patiently at home for her husband to come back safely.
Copyright © Sharon D. Powell, 2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

#links

#links
Follow this link to a blog written by Jo Anne Moore. She give a well presented argument for her views on our new president. I believe we do need a stimulus similar to Roosevelt's New Deal, along with a logical health reform package that includes at a minimum a public option. There aren't enough people organizing and voicing their support for that.
Sharon

A DOG NAMED SAMMY


Today I read a blog about first loves, http://justdoingmythingcom.blogspot.com/. Ernaka reminisces about her first love. It got me thinking about my first love, a hound and beagle mixed I named Chucky -- I was about fourteen or fifteen. Chucky began as my two younger brother's dog but he navigated to me. Actually, I claimed him. Whenever my brothers tried to leave the yard with Chucky I would call him and he would run back to me.

Chucky was my second dog, my first when I was just seven, was a collie I named Lassie. Chucky slept with me, talked on the telephone with my friends -- or at least he licked the telephone and howled. On a bright Sunday morning while our family was getting ready for church I looked out my bedroom window and saw a neighbor walk by carrying my poor dog on a shovel. Chucky had been hit by a car and was dead. I was devastated. My mother tried to find another hound and beagle mix for me but came home with a terrier we named Randy -- but he couldn't replace Chucky.

That was many, many years ago. Three weeks ago my fiancé David dragged me through the county animal shelter. We visit the shelter often just to look at the animals. I had no intention of getting a dog -- and then I saw him. Here was a two and half week old hound and beagle mix. Call it fate, kismet or destiny -- the sign above him said his name was Sammy. My father's name was Samuel and there are numerous family members who are either named Samuel, Sammie, or Samantha -- my daughter's name. I was smitten, still I had no plans to adopt a dog -- the nest is empty and I am very comfortable with my independence.

But I couldn’t get this adorable little pup out of my mind. Looking into his eyes took me back to a simpler time in my life when my biggest problem was finishing a book report for my lit class. I left Sammy at the shelter and went home. I couldn't get his big brown eyes out of my mind. I called the shelter and asked if they still had Sammy -- they did and two days later Sammy was home with me! Now I am up every morning walking this new life before I've even had a shower or my first cup of coffee. I've also had to deal with a couple of accidents in the house and now I'll have to clean the carpet. I worry that the house may smell like a dog and am on guard constantly-- it's great.

I raised three children but I had forgotten what it was like to lose sleep, change diapers and everything else associated with taking care of a new life. I miss my babies but admit I had enjoyed the freedom that comes with an empty nest. Yet, Sammy has brought a joy to my life that I had not expected. I miss my parents, my childhood and my first love, a little hound and beagle mix named Chucky. Sammy helps me cope with the loss of my parents, my youth and the empty nest. Now if I could just get him to stop chewing the rug under my dining room table.
Copyright ©Sharon D. Powell, 2009 all rights reserved

I'M TIRED OF DAVE LETTERMAN

Am I the only one who is tired of the media's obsession with David Letterman's escapades? Okay, he had sex with women on his staff -- he is not the first man or woman to do that. Was it wrong? Yes. Does it have any impact on anyone's life other than his wife, child and staff? No.

It is time to admit that we are human and sometimes make poor choices. During one of my graduate classes, I don't remember which class as there are so many courses psych grad students have to take, I learned that we tend to hold others around us to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. That means we expect others to overlook our dumb mistakes, however we are often unwilling to give others the same break.

Currently, there are some who are shocked and scandalized because Dave Letterman did not live up to their standard. Our standards are personal and don't have anyhing to do with anyone else. I don't mean to sound like a psychologist -- I'm supposed to be in recovery from my former profession. I just believe there are so many real issues that need attention -- issues that impact or communities. David Letterman's behavior does not impact our communities.

It is probably good to take a look at our own behavior, ask ourselves what can we learn from Letterman's disclosure and perhaps commit to avoiding the same mistakes --and get back to debating real issues such as child abuse, domestic violence, crime and get out of our celebrities bedrooms.

Don't get me started talking about the feeding frenzy around Jon and kate:-)
Copyright ©Sharon D. Powell, 2009 all rights reserved

PRESIDENT NEEDS COLIN POWELL

Our new president is faced with a difficult decision – what strategy will work to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda – and find Osma bin Laden. “Asking for patience until he completes an assessment of the situation over the next few weeks, the president urged lawmakers to keep their minds open to a nuanced range of options,” writes Christi Parsons and James Oliphant, Obama mulls middle ground in Afghanistan war strategy, October 7, 2009: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg.

According to Parsons and Oliphant the president is considering a middle range of the spectrum, “somewhere between a major increase in forces and a large drawdown,” they write. They also note that the president is caught in the middle facing pressure from fellow Democrats who prefer a draw down and Republicans “eager to boost the war effort.”

Clearly our new president has advisors who are offering reasonable options however, I believe one advisor he needs to confer with is former Secretary of State and retired Army General Collin Powell. Why Powell? The retired general certainly understands the impact of sending men and women into harms way. Powell also understands what it means to serve in combat – he served two tours of duty in Vietnam. This would not be the first time President Obama has sought advice from Powell. According to an article by Sarah Baxter and posted at TIMESONLINE, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article2042072.ece, the former secretary of state twice met Barack Obama when he was the Democratic candidate, to advise him on foreign policy. This was a good strategy then and would be a good strategy now.

If America destroys Al Qaeda and finds Osma bin Laden this will bring closure to the victims of the 9/11 attack on our country. America needs justice – bin Laden needs to face an American jury and answer for his crimes. Eight years ago when our forces launched the attack in Afghanistan this was the goal. It is unfortunately that our government allowed Iraq and Saddam Hussein to distract us. Hussein is gone and now our focus must be Al Qaeda and Osma bin Laden. More than likely more troops are needed. This is sad -- as a mother and grandmother I undersand how hard it is to make that supreme sacriface and lose our love ones, however as a military woman and an American I understand that service men and women may often be called upon to risk their lives for their country and ultimately die for their country. Iraq was an unfortunate distration but now we need to finish the business Osma bin Laden started eight years ago when he attacked our nation.
Copyright ©Sharon D. Powell, 2009 all rights reserved

Monday, October 5, 2009

US Supreme Court More Diverse

Today was Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s first day at her new job on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s appointment to the highest court by the first president of African and European descent represents a move toward making the highest court mirror the Americans impacted by their rulings. When President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor he took a major step toward making the court look like America – diverse – that melting pot.
America is a nation of diverse cultures and ethnic groups and a culturally diverse Supreme Court gives the court insight it otherwise would not have. Regardless of your political views the idea of a court that mirrors our nation’s population should be welcomed.
Sotomayor brings impeccable credentials to her new post – Sotomayor’s credentials are impressive. She served as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She is also a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School.
Sotomayor’s story is also impressive: “Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/ Background-on-Judge-Sonia-Sotomayor/.
Sotomayer brings experience that her colleagues do not have. In an Associated Press article that appeared in yesterday’s News & Observer, “Supreme Court returns with new face” Mark Sherman notes that “Unlike her colleagues, Sotomayer also has experience as a trial judge.”
There are some who may be concerned about how Sotomayor may rule on hot button cases, but we all must admit that appointing a Latina woman has helped to make the Supreme Court represent the demographics of the US. The Supreme Court is much more diverse and representative of the US population.
I applaud Judge Sotomayor on her new job and wish her well.
Copyright ©Sharon D. Powell, 2009 all rights reserved

THE SUPREME COURT BECOMES MORE DIVERSE

Today was Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s first day at her new job on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s appointment to the highest court by the first president of African and European descent represents a move toward making the highest court mirror the Americans impacted by their rulings. When President Barack Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor he took a major step toward making the court look like America – diverse – the melting pot.
America is a nation of diverse cultures and ethnic groups and a culturally diverse Supreme Court gives that court insight it otherwise would not have. Regardless of your political leanings the idea of a court that mirrors our nation’s population should be welcomed.
Sotomayor brings impeccable credentials to her new post. She served as a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She is also a Lecturer at Columbia University Law School and was also an adjunct professor at New York University Law School.
Her life story is also impressive, “Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream. Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war. Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old. Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse. After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/">http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/ Background-on-Judge-Sonia-Sotomayor/.
Sotomayer brings experience that her colleagues do not have. In an Associated Press article that appeared in yesterday’s News & Observer, “Supreme Court returns with new face” Mark Sherman notes that “Unlike her colleagues, Sotomayer also has experience as a trial judge.”
There are some who may be concerned about how Sotomayor may rule on hot button cases, but we all must admit that appointing a Latina woman has helped to make the Supreme Court represent the demographics of the US. The Supreme Court is much more diverse and representative of the US population.
I applaud Judge Sotomayor on her new job and wish her well.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How Do American Cities become Worthy of the Olympic Games?

As the morning began many Chicagoans were hopeful they would host the 2016 Olympic Games. But this was not to be the case as they lost their bid on the first round of votes. There’s much debate about why Chicago did not make it past the first round of voting this morning. I imagine there are some who do not care that Chicago lost their bid while others feel Chicago didn’t deserve the opportunity to host the games. Activist and author Kevin Powell (no relationship to this writer) voiced this view in his Op-Ed titled “Chicago, Obama, the Olympics, and the Murder of Derrion Albert” posted on Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-powell/chicago-obama-the-olympic_b_307564.html.
Powell argues that Chicago and most major urban US cities need a “domestic Marshall Plan,” which he says would deal with the social issues plaguing these cities. Powell writes that these issues include failing schools, terrible housing conditions, limited job, career, and business opportunities, a culture of violence and “the hopelessness and mayhem that led to the very recent beating death of a teen named Derrion Albert.”
I disagree with Powell when he says Chicago did not deserve to host the games. This opportunity would have invigorated many industries and businesses thus generating needed revenue and jobs. However Powell did correctly identify a major concern and his call for an urban Marshall plan is right on the money. Inner city residents aren’t the only individuals impacted by the decline in urban areas. The entire city and nation suffers – rampant crime, particularly violent crime threatens the entire nation and may have influenced voters in Copenhagen this morning.
Is it possible that voters were swayed by images of that unfortunate young man being beaten to death by other young men— young men who should have had his back. When I worked in human services I found that there was a disconnect between mainstream America and the kind of youths who are capable of beating another human being to death. Many of the men I worked with had experienced so much abuse early in their lives that they were unable to feel empathy or compassion – they lacked a sense of humanity which made them extremely dangerous. We need to make sure all children grow up in safe and loving environments free from crime and violence.
Any plan should focus on ensuring children do not have to experience the kind of violence that teaches them to be dangerous. This plan should include programs to teach overwhelmed parents how to discipline their children without resorting to violence. Anytime a parent or caregiver strikes a child this parent unwittingly teaches that child that violence is the only recourse for all problems. An urban Marshall plan should also focus on motivating youths to view themselves as a part of the greater community and invested in the well being of their communities. It does not matter whether Kevin Powell believes Chicago deserved the Summer Olympics if urban youths do not feel invested in the success of their communities.
There is work to be done in order ensure our cities are ready for the next bid. We have to make sure the Darrion Alberts of the world are safe in order to attract the kind of events that will help our society.
Copyright ©Sharon D. Powell, 2009 all rights reserved

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Invisible Warrior Passed this Week

They are known as the greatest generation – the military men and women who served during World War II. According to Veterans Administration statistics they are dying at the rate of a thousand a day. Sadly, one of the veterans who died this week was a pleasant former Air Force B-29 gunner I met briefly on a humid summer afternoon last year. I learned of this former warrior's death today when I saw his four line death notice in the Raleigh News & Observer. I have the daily newspaper delivered to my door each morning and read the entire paper. This is a good thing otherwise I would not have known that Durell Russer, Sr, 89 had passed. Russer was a Georgia native, who served in the Pacific during World War II.

I interviewed him last summer for a book I am writing. Russer walked with a cane, was stooped with age, and appeared frail. Yet he was a gracious host who gladly welcomed me, a stranger into his home. He told me he was hard of hearing and his memory was failing, nevertheless he seemed eager to talk to me about the war. I had a list of questions I wanted to ask him but after several minutes of yelling back and and forth I realized this was not working. Instead, I just turned on my tape recorder and let him talk. Just inside the front door hanging on his wall was an 8 X 10 portrait of former First Lady, the late Eleanor Roosevelt.

“I met Mrs. Roosevelt,” he said. ‘Oh really’, I replied and waited for him to explain. “She came to Tinian when I was there," he said. Tinian is the Pacific island where the B-29 bomber named Enola Gay took off from to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wanted to know how he felt about that but could not ask questions as he couldn't hear me. Instead, I waited for him to tell me more about meeting Eleanor Roosevelt.

During her visit Russer said the first lady ate lunch at his table – which Russer considered an honor as the men at his table were all African American. These men did not expect the first lady to single them out to share a meal with them because they were black, according to Russer. "She told us President Roosevelt wanted us to know he liked the job we were doing," Russer said.

I got the impression Russer and his comrades needed to hear these encouraging words. They had been conditioned to believe they were invisible, much like the narrator of Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, The Invisible Man. Ellison's narrator, who is black explains that he is not invisible because of science but because others refuse to see him because he is "a negro" – that day Russer and his comrades became visible.

I believe Eleanor Roosevelt was willing to recognize men such as Russer along with the other 1.2 million African American men and women of the greatest black generation who served during World War II. Here's to you Durell Russer -- invisible no more.
Copyright ©Sharon D. Powell, 2009 all rights reserved