The expression, “It can’t be done,” has proven to be the most detrimental to Blacks who seek to share in the American dream of equality. Over the years I have written and spoken out about the almost total absence of Black leadership. At the last election a colored politician, who had held an elected position for 30 years, confronted me. He started the conversation by saying, “He reads my columns regularly and that he often finds that I am overly critical about the failure of government.”
I attempted to leave, because I was not in the mood to verbally beat him up, which I could very easily do. However, before I could leave he made the tragic mistake of saying people like you fail to understand there are a multitude of things THAT CAN’T BE DONE. He continued by saying “that most of the problems that I write about can’t be corrected by the Blacks we elect.”
The former politician failed to shock or startle me with his admission of ineptitude; however, I was surprised with his built-in admission of failure that “IT CAN’T BE DONE.”
I realize that a long time ago, how fortunate I had been to have a daddy, who instilled in us that “can’t” is not to be a part of your lifestyle or vocabulary. His constant expression was nothing is impossible, “you can if you believe you can.”
My father’s efforts paid off when I was drafted into the U.S. Army, the very first time I left home on my own. It proved to be a period in my life that my upbringing would be tested. The Black soldiers encountered a lengthy number of serious racial problems and somehow I wound up being the voice to resolve some of the issues. One of our early and most serious conformations found us in the colonel’s office. He said to me that it was apparent that I was the spokesperson and before I could respond, the colonel said, “hand me the book on the top shelf and turn to page 25 and read it out loud.” I followed his instructions and it read that as the spokesperson I could be charged with mutiny. A couple of weeks later I, along with several soldiers, was ordered to attend a court martial and observe how serious it could be. It clearly left an impression on all of us about the power of the U.S. Army. I was not deterred and continued to speak up and out, but was always careful about crossing the line that would put me in the federal stockade.
I will always remember about two months before being discharged, the captain called a meeting and asked how many of us were planning on re-enlisting and staying in the Army, and then added that Cpl. Kendrick should not, and everybody fell out laughing. But it meant to me that I had done something beneficial during my military experience.
During my time in the Army I encountered a number of bigoted situations in Baltimore, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana and Detroit. These incidents opened my eyes and helped me realize how much these places had in common with Pittsburgh. The majority of those who reside in Pittsburgh are and have been race-blind when it comes to racial atrocities that they believe only occurs in the deep South. The truth of the matter is that the situations are almost identical.
My challenge to all of you who are reading this column is, when you are afforded the opportunity to create positive change, you must do your very best. It’s understandable you may need your job to provide for yourself and family. However, you still have an obligation to do your very best and to discount the notion that “IT CAN’T BE DONE.”
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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