My hat is off to pastor Tyrone Skinner who has celebrated 20 years of leadership as pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Pasadena. Under his leadership, the Young African American Male Leadership conference was created. This year’s conference was held last weekend at Pasadena City College, serving over three hundred young men from this community.
I sat on a panel that talked about community leadership and where we go from here. A young Man, Wayne Jackson, who graduated from Howard University posed the statement that we need to unify and all head in the same direction. I thought of the fact that we were all there because of Pastor Skinner’s leadership for 20 years. We were there for the purpose of leadership and to pass on the things we have learned over the years to the younger ones in the community and help them take on the leadership mantle.
I feel privileged to be a part of this event and sharing a panel with such notables as Pasadena City College Vice President Dr. Robert Bell, Bob Grant and Cameron Stewart. With talent like that, we have nowhere to go but up. They, and others like them, are the talent that will take us there.
Each year, each tragedy, each adventure is a step into the future as long as we don’t get stuck in the present. A majority of our discussion Included Kendrec McDade’s, the father. Kendrec McDade who was killed by the Pasadena Police in March 2012. McDade’s pain and anger were evident, for most he vented for most of the session. I was reminded of an ad by Lehigh University which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, on April 12, 2013, that asks the following question, “Will tragedy teach us how to build a more secure future?”
In the 1950’s, my father, Albert Hopkins, decided to step out and open a business of his own. He used a known model. He would polish cars for automobile dealers in our adopted hometown of Bakersfield, California. Our family had moved there in the nineteen forties from Altus, Oklahoma. It was part of the great migration from the South. Isabel Wilkerson had written about The Great Migration in her book, The Warmth of Other Suns.
With the promise of a greater future than was offered by the aggregate mistreatment of the South in Oklahoma, which spit in his face, we moved Northwest to Bakersfield California. Our story was not unique as Langston Hughes had written about it in a poem called the “Kinder Mistress” which is cited in The Warmth of Other Suns. The North also spit in my father’s face but by then we, as a family, had learned that God has a Plan B. And so, we moved, only looking back to plan the future. The past is past. Tomorrow is the future.
Langston Hughes wrote as follows in “The Kinder Mistress” – The Lazy, laughing South with blood on its mouth . . . Passionate and cruel, Honey-lipped, syphilitic — That is the South. And I who am black, would love her But she spits in my face . . . So now I seek the North — The cold face North for she is a kinder mistress.
Moving did not change much. We were still Black, the White people were still White, and we were still in America. We still had to struggle twice as hard, and so my Dad did what he could do for a better future for his family. Though America spit in his face, he got up and kept moving. We were still Black and we still had to struggle. He stayed there until death (at 51 years).
Now, I follow my Father’s pattern. I have been here for 71 years. So far, so good. My Father is gone, but the house he bought is still apart of the family legacy. I teach the family pattern to my sons, as best as I can. The future is theirs. My job is to teach the pattern and prepare them to teach it to their family.
I thank Pastor Skinner for his leadership to those who may not have leaders in the home to pass on the pattern.