One should not force their heroes upon others
Beside my deceased father four men immeasurable influences continue to shape my life. A hero is a strong word treading ever so close to mythical character worshipping. Real are my heroes. The four individuals below were simple humans who possessed incredible talents. They lacked flawlessness we suspect but however their personal lives aside, the tremendous contributions to society were enormous. Nevertheless, the present written remembrance view their impact on the author’s life.
“In life there are ways of getting almost anywhere
you want to go, if you really want to go.”
James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. Reading his material opened my mental sinus to the written word. Hughes’ writings became relevant later in life; his book “The Ways of Whites Folks” is marvelous.
There are many accomplished writers but I am careful not to select baseless rhetoric to form opinions. Thus selecting black authors to learn about the past remain strictly guarded. Langston is one of the few on my bookshelf. He stated in a untangle rhythm great fiction and opinions about the negro life in the 20th century. His writing continues to position itself as the vital foundation to storytelling by this author. He compositions appear effortless, smooth, and simple. His writing style was magnificence.
“And now, I feel at 85, I really feel that I’m just ready to start.”
Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks (November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006) photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. Gordon Parks created two movies, “The Learning Tree” and “Shaft” that exploded race relations on an innocent boy. “The Learning Tree” introduced racism in an unforgiving manner.
Discovering my skin color as a negative through the character “Newt” sucked the air out of me.
People infamously remember where they were when tragic events occurred (e.g., JFK, MLK, Malcolm X, 9-11). I will never forget discovering being perceived as less than human and called a ‘nigger’ for clarity through the Learning Tree.
“Shaft” was the first movie of its kind, a powerful black man in the lead. A first time in America movie history. Gordon Parks wrote and directed the highly successful neophyte movie. My dad and mom took me to see it.
Not to overlook, Gordon Parks was a highly awarded photographer for Time Magazine for years. An artistic genius his black and whites shots influence my present photography. His cultural footprints creates envy.
“No society can smash the social contract and be exempt from the consequences,
and the consequences are chaos for everybody in the society.”
James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist. James Baldwin like Langston Hughes developed later in my life. A small man in stature Mr. Baldwin’s large love of black folks and Americans seethes through his writings and speeches.
In addition, like Langston, a valued referenced person to provide insight on race and America history in the 20th century. He chronicled the precise steps of blacks and a nation at odds. No other author influence my microscope on race more than James Baldwin.
His homosexuality I applaud, his fierceness for inequity I applaud, his strength to write and speak of a nation in pain, I dully applaud. Mr. Baldwin is possibly the greatest writer of his time, surly he is in my opinion.
“Hating people because of their color is wrong.
And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942) is a former three-time World Heavyweight Champion. Quite frankly, “The greatest heavyweight championship boxers of all time.” No man outside my father influenced my personal life more than “Ali”. His boxing career set aside, it was his brashness to be black that stroked blacks’ collective self-love aspirations. Growing up in America in the 60’-70s racism suppressed numerous positive variables associated with black people. We needed people like Ali telling us we were people of status.
Our skin color through all forms of media indicated evil, lazy, shiftless, ugly, and untrustworthy. Although I never prescribed to this nonsense, Muhammad Ali announced those similar anti-sentiments to the world. As the most famous face on earth at the time, he pushed blackness like dope in Harlem, unapologetic.
To be clear, no black athletic or celebrity before or since measured the magnitude of Ali’s global social influence. Even more important, I needed Ali after losing my father at age 15. He was a surrogate regardless of distance and personal unfamiliarity. I learned how to play football from him, how to stand up for people, and how to be a leader. He is the most influential person to my sport and personal life outside my parents.
Robert A. Williams