Guest Column

This month is Black History Month. I’ve been listening to different people on TV talking about their Black hero. The most frequently mentioned are famous and familiar names, all worthy: MLK, Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Elijah Cummings, the late John Lewis and either Obama. My Black hero is an unknown man.

My mother, who came from a fairly conservative Italian family in Boston, was a bit of a radical activist housewife. She raised us to see every human being — gay, straight, liberal, conservative, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American — as equals and, as such, deserving of the same rights and opportunities we as heterosexual whites enjoyed.

Later in life, I wondered how she evolved to this position, bringing us to protest marches on just about every social issue there was.

Growing up, I naively believed that is how the world was since the people we socialized with shared the same beliefs.

The year was 1964, and we were attending a rally for President Lyndon B. Johnson. We arrived early at Union Plaza in San Francisco so we could be in the front. My mother’s goal was to let LBJ know that she supported his efforts for civil rights. Say what you will about President Johnson but, other than Abraham Lincoln and not Donald Trump, no other president did as much for the rights of Blacks, doing so at great risk to himself and the Democratic Party.

Just before the president arrived, the police formed a line around the stage. As the president exited the car, the police locked arms, forming a human chain. When the president stepped up to the podium, the crowd surged forward. My neck was at the height of the locked arms, and I was being strangled.

My mother was in a panic trying to push the police backwards while pulling me away, but she was unable to. My mother started yelling at the cop to help.

The officer shrugged his shoulders and said he could not break the arm lock, that the president’s safety had priority. I remember gagging and struggling for breath.

As I was passing out, I saw the officer knocked backwards. I was suddenly lifted high off the ground and placed on the shoulders of someone who was carrying me away from crowd, my mother running behind and crying, repeating “thank you, thank you for saving my baby.” I remember thinking: “I am not a baby; I’m 8.”

When we cleared the crowd, the tall man put me down. My mother, still in tears, thanked him for putting his life in danger to save me. I didn’t realize at the time what she was talking about. To me, he was an adult saving a kid, which is what adults do. To the world, he was a Black man in the 1960s pushing a white cop. I later learned watching TV that in the Southern states, there had been beatings and lynchings for much less.

Without this man, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the life I’ve been fortune enough to experience with all of the privileges a white kid possesses. I’ll never know why this total stranger saved a young white boy putting himself at risk unless, like my family, he didn’t see us as different races, but members of the same race : the human race.

Michael Pritchard lives in Bend.

(5) comments

CardiacSpike

My black hero is retired Master Sergeant Hubert C. Jackson, United States Army Special Forces.

In 1984, while the two of us were serving together at a remote location in El Salvador, “BlackJack”, as he was known to us, saved my life. We were our operational detachment’s “salt and pepper” team. I was white, he was black, and our friendship was such that whenever we deployed as split teams it was BJ and me who always worked together.

Later, in another Troops in Contact (TIC) firefight in La Union, El Salvador, BJ’s performance under enemy fire was so extra ordinary that I submitted him for a valor award. There were only a handful of black “Green Berets” serving in Central America during the 1980s, and BJ was one of these. Years later, after our war was congressionally authorized combat awards and decorations, Hubert C. Jackson’s long languishing valor award was approved by the Department of the Army.

His narrative and award were sent to me and after some years I was able to track BJ down and send it to him. He was shocked – he had no idea I had written him up for any such award – and when he got the small package we talked for the first time since he’d retired. It was great.

Master Sergeant Jackson is today one of only three black “Green Berets” to have served in El Salvador, under enemy fire, and to have been recognized for his actions and accomplishments with a Valor award. Today he teaches black military history, a passion of his, and his PowerPoint presentation as well as grace, dignity, wonderful sense of humor, and love for our country is well received by his audiences.

https://daytonatimes.com/2015/07/23/teaching-black-military-history-is-retirees-passion/

“BlackJack” Jackson is indeed a hero. He is also a pioneer given his earning his “Green Beret” now so many years ago when he represented the black Special Forces Soldier with such dignity and accomplishment. And today as he ensures we can learn, from him and his own experiences, the important challenges, contributions, and courage our country’s black war fighters have made.

“De Oppresso Liber” – “To Free the Oppressed”.

M. Pritchard

CardiacSpike

What a wonderful man BlackJack is and what a wonderful human being you are for appreciating not so much BlackJack’s race, but seeing him as another soldier, a brother, you could count on and respect. I worked at MCRD in San Diego during the late 70’s early 80’s and despite the diversity of the military compared to most companies and institutions there still remained solid discrimination. And not just limited to race. My mother’s best friend had a brother in the Corp who was gay. ‘Uncle Pete’. He loved the Corp even though the Crop wouldn’t have loved him for who he was had they known. As a gay man he could hide his difference. Unlike BlackJack who, by virtue of his skin, had to face the prejudice of his time. I suspect BlackJack was just as honored to have had a friend like you who saw him for who he was, not “what” he was. I’m so glad to hear this story had a happy ending. Thank you for sharing it. Michael

CardiacSpike

Thank you. The Special Forces community at large, my community, has always honored its soldiers, its multi-racial Brothers and Sisters, and always will. We see one color only - the color red - the color of the blood we shed for each other.

See the link attached to this story - we walk our talk - De Oppresso Liber!

Special Operators Transition Foundation

Special Operators Transition Foundation

3,175 followers

4d • 4 days ago

In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth, the Special Operators Transition Foundation recognizes and applauds the significant contributions that African Americans have made, and continue to make, to our Nation to ensure we live up to the ideals that were framed in our Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal.”

The Special Operators Transition Foundation salutes Major James (Jim) Capers. Major Capers is the United States Marine Corps first Black special operator, a member of the inaugural class of the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Commando Hall of Honor, recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Raider history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.

For more information:

https://lnkd.in/gVZUb5A

Tom Pained

Kudos to the author. We should all have been so lucky to have been raised by such a mother. Bias, bigotry, and prejudice aren’t inherent traits, but learned. The people around us tend to instill their version of morality on us starting as early as childhood making it difficult for us as adults to find our own way, to create our own values, and live a life that works for us that is not based on what others have defined as good, right, or the moral way to live. The journey to inclusion starts with understanding that we all begin life as equals, and regardless of skin color, culture, socioeconomic status, who we love, how we love, we’re all the same underneath. We all want to have a happy, fulfilling life, free from assumptions because of what people see rather than who we really are. Studies indicate that the majority of us, subconsciously determine who a person is within the first 7 seconds of contact. Really, how much can you learn in 7 seconds, unless you’re Sherlock Holmes? Would this incident have been as remarkable to the author if it had been a white man (or woman)? Probably not, and that is what is sad. When a person does what most of use think we’d have done in the same situation, it’s remarkable when it’s done by someone outside of our tribe. Let this story be a lesson to all of those who denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement. In the author’s case, it certainly did. And it sounds like he recognizes that and is grateful for this mystery man. Well done Michael, I hope you used your second lease on life to contribute to the common good.

M. Pritchard

To Tom. I hope I’ve done enough with my life to honor the man who, in all likelihood, saved my life. I became an investigator for an indigent defense firm here in town, and earlier worked as a mediator and court advocate for the mentally ill in San Diego. However, my proudest achievement has come later in life. I’ve been fortunate enough to become a volunteer with our local Red Cross chapter. The last four years have, without a doubt, been the most meaningful, though at times, the hardest and most demanding of my life. But always, deeply rewarding and fulfilling. The Red Cross stands for all of the values and qualities my mother fought for all of her life. Diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance, of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, family structure, sexual preference or identity. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist my fellow Oregonians when the Wildfires hit this fall. At a time when our country was torn apart and broken into warring tribes, all of that was set aside. The outflowing of support for their fellow Oregonians I witnessed made me proud and humbled. People came to see how they could help. They offered their time, their labor, their homes, barns, cash donations, anything they could do to assist total strangers never once putting caveats on who or where their assistance went to other than it remain in Oregon. I witnessed pensioners and Social Security recipients writing checks for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars while I wondered how hard this must be hitting their budget. My partner and I were stationed at the Fairgrounds. People were constantly asking what they could do to help. Suzan, my partner, would provide a list of grocery items the residents of the various hotels could use like individual boxes of cereal, juice, fresh fruit, snack bars, etc. . . to provide breakfast for at times upwards of 3 hundred people. Almost every day, people showed up with those items until we had to ask them to pare it down. Some helped us prepare the cold breakfasts for delivery the night before. Toiletries were in short supply as were supplies for children, books, crayons, paper, cards anything to fill the time. One of my favorite stories involves a young boy who came up with his bag full of toothbrushes from the dollar store. He was buying them out of his allowance. Along with the brushes, he grabbed a candy bar, when he got to the register he didn’t have enough. So he put back the candy bar, but was still a little short, his slightly older sister made up the difference and got him his candy bar. The amount of hours and the effort from our local volunteers was awe inspiring. And soon, volunteers from all over the country dropped what they were doing and came to help total strangers. They gave of themselves expecting nothing in return. Trust me, it wasn’t always easy physically or emotionally. COVID didn’t help. Yet our volunteers never strayed from the Red Cross mission. To prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. To protect life and health and to ensure respect for all human beings. I am fortunate enough to belong to the most inclusive humanitarian organization in the world. And to call some of the most giving and amazing people in the world my teammates and many close and personal friends. Just as with the stranger who saved my life, I’ve been lucky beyond what I deserve in this life and hope I’ve rewarded his efforts. My mother who died before I become a Red Crosser, would be proud a place that embodied what she believed, provided me a home.

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