Saturday, November 2, 2013

My Reflection November 22, 1963

5It was around 1960, when I began to hear the family talk about this guy Kennedy the newly elected President of the United States. What I thought significant about the man was that he spoke of the Negro situation in terms of positive support, which naturally made him the choice for most Negroes at the time.

What was interesting and different about the time was this thing called television, although not new, it was becoming widely accepted as a source of news and information. We did not have one but I can recall what seemed to be an urgency to get one for obvious reasons.

News by its very nature wasn’t always positive. It is designed to distribute the negative, which is a nice way of saying bad things. Most often we would get the news brought by others about dreadful atrocities, particularly issues involving race relations. It was horrifying to actually see the dogs attacking peaceful Negroes serenely marching on southern streets. Not to mention seeing police spitefully spraying fire hoses or on horseback trampling peaceful protesters, who were marching for the most basic of human rights. The visual impact of this was powerful, driving the point home that we were always in grave danger as a people.

I can remember a particular day in late November 1963 that I will never forget. Our class had just returned from what we called a recess period. My teacher Mrs. Marshall, a beautiful old lady about seventy or so, was called out of the classroom into the hallway. I noticed all of the teachers started crying and screaming. We had no idea what was happening at first. It seemed as if they were trying to find a way to tell us something. When Mrs. Marshall returned to the classroom, she said, “Class, something bad has happened. The president was killed.” This was very bad news because I knew enough to know what she said meant: assassination.

Mrs. Marshall was a tough old battle-ax who was hard as nails, but as she gave us the bad news she showed a never before seen compassion that communicated the magnitude of this horrible incident. I could not believe she was crying and visibly upset because of what had happened. She went on to say that nothing this bad had happened to Negroes since Lincoln was killed. Ironically, this president was killed because he took a stand in support of our cause as well. It was not until that day that I understood there was a system in place designed to protect the system - in other words to keep us down.

Mrs. Marshall so eloquently explained to us that America had a long-standing system in place to ensure there will always be a permanent underclass. She went on to say that we were it. She gave us the sense that our last hope for justice had died.  This was something I never forgot.

She was telling us that anyone who fought for our rights would be destroyed. It appeared to be true because this was the second time in a year that I would know that word – assassination. Not to mention all of the other indignities our people endured continuously adding credence to her remarks.

The next several days were like there had been a death in our family. Everyone was affected by this tragedy. I think we were more affected emotionally because of all the hopes residing in this man. My family was devastated and watched everything about the tragic event for a week. And of course, we were made to watch also as this sad commentary unfolded right in front of our eyes.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a few days later we were shocked as we watched the person accused of killing the president killed on live television. This was something no one could believe, and inside a police station no less.

We would be witness to the funeral of a murdered president. Albeit via television, something few living people had witnessed and the world stopped for it. The most powerful and emotional moment occurred when the president’s little boy, who was about three years old, was standing along the funeral procession route as his father’s casket passed the family. I imagined this little boy had no idea what had happened to his father, but he stood at attention and saluted his fallen dad. And the horse with no rider who wouldn’t follow the marching soldier trying to lead him – these two incidents made this somber event even more emotional.

I remember hearing my Granddaddy say this was a setup - from day one. Kennedy’s body was not cold before the new president was sworn in. The guy arrested for shooting him was killed before Kennedy’s body was in the ground. To put this in Granddaddy’s words, from the shooting to the new president’s get-away to silencing the culprit, “This dog just don’t hunt.”  I knew even then that this day would affect the entire world and all of our lives in a big way.

Follow the series "The Day Innocence Died" each day this month because the most profound sin is a tragedy unremembered. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

This film was not seen for ten-years after the fact. Could the shot have come from the rear?

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