FOR CHOKWE By Herman Bell


My dear brother, you know the kind of hell we black people were born into in america, and we were not among the first of our people to arrive here. My mind's eye can still see the chains on their hands and feet, and smell the fetid air wafting from the holds of the slave ships that brought them to these shores to be bought and sold and owned as chattel, to fetch and carry as ordered.

My dear brother, you knew our story well. America the beautiful, home of the brave, land of liberty - but not for you and not for me. The journey of the descendants of those who arrived here in chains has been a thorny one. From plantation to ghetto; meeting Gabriel, Harriet, Nat, Malcolm, and Martin along the way - and let us not forget Fannie Lou, Stokeley, Huey, Assata, and all the rest. It seems that we've not been allowed to catch our breath.

In our going forward, it's no secret that the opposition has been stiff, brutal, and unrelenting. We remember too well the old Jim Crow vagrancy laws that effectively re-enslaved our people throughout the segregated South. Today's mass-incarceration policy achieves the same results. And need we be reminded of Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Jordan Davis, Stop-and-Frisk.

The fight for social justice has always remained a big part of your life, Chokwe. You've stood your ground along with us, paced yourself with us, knowing full well that the race goes not to the swiftest. You've all too frequently laid down your lawyering game in defending us in Mr. Gilmore's and his son Cockeye Jr's courtroom. Won some, lost some, but always aggressively in the fray.

You were popularly elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, a crowning achievement in the land of Dixie. You did us proud. For we could well imagine your agenda. Oh my dear brother, just as you had gained your second wind, news of your passing devastated us all. Thy will be done is how the old saying goes. Thy will be done!

As we gaze upon the distant horizon, my brother, we see as you did that so very much is left to be done. You did your part as best as you could, and in our honoring you and those who came before us, we must do ours. Thus we say All Power to the People. Your place in our hearts is well secured, Chokwe. -- Herman

Stay connected with Herman Bell