Mom would recall what it was like living on base at Ft. Campbell…watching the jump training; worrying about the occasional “streamer” — fearing it might just be her receiving the notice, “We regret to inform you….” your husband was killed during a training accident. She had already been through the years when Dad was in the Marine Corps.
Ever hear of the Montford Point Marines? Don’t worry. Most haven’t. These were the very first Black men allowed into the Marine Corps. Their hellish training and command officers in North Carolina did little to prepare them for the hell facing them in combat. They carried ammo and supplies onto the beaches BEFORE the troops landed. We’ve all seen those beach landings. We’ve never seen the Black Marines landing ahead of time. But I digress.
Dad had returned from the WWII European Theatre and from the Pacific Island Campaign safely. He’d gone to and returned from the Korean Campaign safely.
But before he arrived, Mom had the good sense to move from Ft. Campbell to Louisville -where I was born. Red Cross Hospital, the only place Blacks could receive treatment, if not at home.
She knew she was giving Dad no choice – and he wisely decided to stay with his family rather than re-enlist for whatever number of times this would have been. And there I was, the middle of what would go on to become five surviving children.
Dad is from Owen County and Mom, a preacher’s daughter from Bradley and Loudon counties, Tennessee. They met in Louisville where both attended Central High School and Municipal College. They married and went off to study and start our family at Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University.
As a child growing up, I enjoyed many sports including football, track, sports cars, and gymnastics. I was also then exposed to our family’s Native American heritage and found it was a tradition and a heritage that ran deep in our blood. My grandfather’s family and kin were raised in a Native community, Paint Rock, Tennessee. Later, Mom lived there and today we have a number of family members still living in the area. It was a time and a community where Blacks and Indians relied on each other for survival – not unlike many small communities today.
And many of the ways of the Native American were kept alive in our family and passed down to me and to my brothers and sister. Some 15 years ago, I was adopted into the Ojibwe Nation and now have family on the White Earth Reservation in NW Minnesota. My love for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding, nature can all be traced to my family’s deep roots in the land.
We were also actively involved in the Civil Rights and Open Housing Movements of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. In junior high school, I was a vice-president of the NAACP Youth Council and was involved in voter registration, protests, sit-in’s marches and other such activities from an early age.
I graduated from Iroquois High School after serving as a senior class officer and on the Executive Board of the Student Council. I received numerous academic awards in my years there and was published in a national collection of high school poets.
Following high school, I attended Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Ind., where I married and received my BA in History and minored in Third World Studies. From there, I moved to Iowa City, Iowa to attend the University of Iowa Law School. After graduation, I moved to Atlanta where I worked part time during the day for a law firm and worked full time at night driving a tow motor in a factory. After almost 2 years of this, I decided to return to Louisville to work for Legal Aid. There I worked in the community organizing community groups and non-profit organizations.
When the chance to run for public office arose, I committed myself to public service and have never looked back. I was forced to leave Legal Aid when I made this decision and worked for several law firms while serving as the 11th Ward Alderman for the City of Louisville, a position I held for 18 years. When the opportunity to work for the University of Louisville arose, I took advantage of it and now have been at the university for 20 years, in varying capacities: Associate Director of Admissions; Associate Director of Development and now, working for Dean Blaine Hudson as Associate Director of Outreach for the College of Arts & Sciences.
I have one daughter and one precocious granddaughter!
If not hanging out with my family or out in the fields scouting for turkey or deer or new stand locations, I am likely to be riding or racing one of my motorcycles or attending a Native American cultural event or fishing or yardwork.