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John B. Williams, Oldest Buffalo Soldier in Columbus, OH

Posted on November 10, 2018 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (0)

African American service members stand on the shoulders of famous Civil War slavery heroes, the Buffalo Soldiers. Had there not been a Civil War, there never would have been civil rights. Over 200,000 men and one-inconspicuous-woman, Cathay Williams, served as Buffalo Soldiers from 1866 - 1944. After the war, thousands of caucasian troops returned home to their families. The Buffalo Soldiers continued to serve and support the missions of the United States Army. They were the first to make the military a professional career by serving up to 20 years.

Young Adult Minister, Alexander Roseboro, made a unique decision when he commemorated February as African American History month at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. He chose to share a part of history that many young adults had little or no knowledge. A legendary lesson was taught by Allen “Stampede” Carter, President of Columbus Buffalo Soldiers Motor Cycle Club. Today’s Buffalo Soldiers have transitioned from relying on equestrian modes of transportation to motorcycles. Stampede captured the attention of both young and old during a soul food dinner in the H. Beecher Hicks Fellowship Hall.

The chronicles of the great African American Buffalo Soldiers and the roles they played in nearby Wilberforce, Ohio caught many by surprise. Some young adults’ googled Stampede's facts during his speech on the first-three-West Point Academy Cadets and graduates. He spoke to the audience about Lieutenant Colonel Henry Ossian Flipper, Lieutenant John Hanks Alexander, and Colonel Charles Young. These men each took part in leading the way for African American military officers everywhere. The mesmerized audience was amazed to learn more about the connections of Colonel Young at nearby Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio. There was a question and answer session following Stampede’s speech.

A Columbus native, 92-year-old John B. Williams, is one of approximately 93 living legends who were a part of the original Buffalo Soldiers. Drafted as an enlisted Soldier following his graduation from East High School, he was drafted and sent to California. Williams later was sent to Europe with the 15th/53rd Heavy Pontoon Regiment. He joined the Buffalo Soldiers when his unit synchronized with the 10th Calvary and fought alongside General George Patton in Italy.

“White women started complaining about the Black Soldiers that were still in the United States while their husbands were fighting overseas, said Williams. We were combat-ready but not allowed to fight overseas until the Defender Newspaper, a black Chicago Press and the Pittsburg Carrier Newspaper reported that well-trained-and-equipment-ready Black Soldiers could not deploy overseas because of their skin color,” he added.

The Veteran Staff Sergeant has made it a lifelong mission to keep the story about the brave and courageous Buffalo Soldiers alive. Like the Tuskegee Airmen’s story, many history books omitted facts about the African American men who fought and died for our country. The non-profit organization, Columbus Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, continues to educate the public on the missing pages of our African American ancestral heroes. The nationwide organization has a chapter in nearly every major city.

On July 25, 1992, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on the exact same site where the Buffalo Soldiers lived and died, a magnificent homage to their spirit and legacy was erected. A bronze statue commissioned by General Colin Powell commemorates the great fighters.

“These Soldiers protected the American frontier from the American Revolution through the Indian Wars. They also served in the Spanish-American War, Mexican expedition, the Cuban Crisis, Philippine insurrection, both World Wars, and the Korean conflict. Also a one hundred man detachment from the 9th Cavalry served to teach future officers at West Point riding instruction.

“The importance of these men in the development of the American West went beyond serving in combat; they helped build frontier forts, constructed telegraph lines, and patrolled the Mexican border, and captured thieves and outlaw gangs, “according to the Buffalo Soldiers history website.

Nearly 70 years later in 2015, after Cathay Williams served as a Buffalo Soldier, the Pentagon has finally caught up with reality and lifted the ban on women in combat. Born into slavery, she served in the 38th U. S. Infantry from 1866 to 1868. She became a trail blazer for servicewomen everywhere. Military records from her sick-call visits to five different military doctors never indicated that she was a woman. Just like many men, she became ill from exhaustion while traveling through rough terrain, living in the field, and crossing turbulent and dangerous waters. Cathay hid her true identity by changing her name to William Cathay. Discharged papers from the military were not enough to grant her a pension when her health worsened from military-related illnesses. Caucasian women later disguised themselves and received their military pensions. Cathay also opened more doors for herself by becoming a self-employed small business owner as a laundress. Unfortunately, retribution has never been granted to her ancestors for her pension. The Army noted on her pension papers that Cathay Williams, also known as William Cathey were one in the same. Today, she is known as the first “female” American Combat Soldier.

The last chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers ended in World War II. In spite of their great sacrifices and outstanding performance, the Buffalo Soldiers were not fully recognized or appreciated by the United States government or its citizens. Many of them walked in shame and were embarrassed to disclose who they were to family and friends. They were led to believe that their service in the military was not noteworthy.

Recently, on March 12, 2015, the National Park Service commemorated Colonel Charles Young‘s 151st birthday at the African American Museum & Cultural Arts Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. He was born into slavery in Mays Lick, Kentucky and escaped to Ripley, Ohio with his parents. He was the ninth African American to attend Westport to become an Officer and the third to graduate and earn a commission. He served with the 9th Calvary during the Civil War. Following the war he returned to Wilberforce, Ohio and taught military science and tactics’ to African Americans interested in becoming Officers. Today it is known as the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Colonel Young became close friends with W.E.B. Dubois and Paul Lawrence Dunbar. He was a Military Attaché in both Haiti and Liberia. In 1916 Charles Young earned a medal from the NAACP for his infrastructure work performed in Liberia. When he taught in Wilberforce his father died. He and his mother purchased a home west of the college. Thanks to his supporters, The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (his home) now stands and a historical marker is dedicated to his life. Not only did Colonel Young inspire black men to join the Officer Training Corps, he also became the first African American Superintendent of National Parks when he and his 9th Calvary men worked the land in Sequoia, CA. The roads that were built then are still in existence today.

Written by Serbennia Davis

Bmore's Linden Avenue

Posted on April 15, 2018 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (3)

                                                                    Annie Mae’s House


     The train ride seemed long from Dunn, NC to Baltimore, MD. We caught a taxi-cab ride from the train station to Annie Mae’s third floor one-bedroom apartment on Linden Avenue. This is where she resided with her two teenage sons, Garrison and Five-Cent. She also worked nearby at the neighborhood lounge as a barmaid. The depth of love that Annie Mae felt for her sister by raising the three of us was remarkably profound. Months earlier the two promised each other that if anything ever happened to either of them, they would care for the other’s children.

     A motherless child herself, Annie Mae and baby sister, Bernie were the youngest of six daughters of Robert (Bob) and Cora Clark.  Their mother died during childbirth of a seventh child when they were only toddlers too.  Except for one sister, Mable who died by food poisoning, the other three sisters were grown.  

     Granddaddy Bob was later remarried to Georgetta –-from Georgia. They moved to Baltimore to start a new life. The two little girls were left behind, and court ordered to be raised by their mother’s sister, Great Aunt Ruth Ann. Overwhelmed and stressed, a child abuse case eventually brought both little girls to Baltimore to live with their father, Bob and stepmother, Georgetta.

   In 1957, when Annie Mae became a sixteen-year-old teenage mother, Granddaddy Bob made her quit school. She stayed home to care for her baby boy, Garrison. Two years later another son Allen (nicknamed Five-cent) was born. Later in life she went to night school and earned her High School Diploma.  Her untimely pregnancy was also during the time Grandma Georgetta was expecting a baby girl, Rachel and a few years later, little Beatrice.

     Before we were a twinkle in Momma Mittie's eyes, she would send for her two small nephews, Garrison and Five-cent. She helped to raise the boys for her teenage sister Annie Mae. By this time Aunt Bernie had her first son, Terrell.  He would also spend time with Momma Mittie in Dunn, NC. This could have been one of the reasons Annie Mae felt so obligated to raise the three of us. She was overly protective and very strict but the three of us stayed together because of her outspokenness and strong determination.  Some say, "she could cuss like a sailor and hold her liquior."

     The family’s child abuse and domestic violence legacy began long before we were born though.  It continued throughout several generations. Like so many other African American families, we were victims of “the slave mentality” - feelings of inferiority complexes, verbal and physical abuse coupled with depression, drugs and alcohol.

     Often, we thought Annie Mae was the meanest woman that ever walked the face of the earth.  But we knew better.  She had a huge caring heart and shared a lot of the little we had with many others who were less fortunate. She was the backbone of our existence and we loved her for it – mean and all! 

   One thing for sure, she never allowed us to forget Momma Mittie and how she was killed and we could never call Annie Mae, "Mother!"   

Black House Rules by Serbennia Davis

Posted on April 1, 2018 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

     This ain’t the White House. It’s the Black House! We don’t live in Upper Arlington. We live in the country - outside of Grove City. Your friends don’t take care of you, I do! This ain’t about friendship. It’s about family! You don’t get to live in my house and come and go as you please! 18 or not, there are still house rules that you must abide by while living here. If you can’t follow them, go live with your friends. So, don’t insult my intelligence with smart-ass disrespectful remarks to impress your friends or whenever you get stressed out because you fucked-up by having poor judgement. Stop trying to be something that you are not. Manners don’t cost a cent, but they will get you into a lot of places in life.

     Education is not an option, it’s a requirement. Not raising dummies. Raising geniuses. Don’t return home without the “sheep’s skin.” Failure is not an option. Trying to teach you how to fish! Not feed you a fish. Complete-the-mission at hand.

     Rent is due on the first of the month or you will be evicted – just like any other place. Nobody is going to take care of you for the rest of your life. When you work, give back to those who sacrificed and helped you along the way. We didn’t have to do it. It was a struggle for us too. Often, we are still paying for those sacrifices. I’m not your maid – clean up behind yourself. That’s what grown folks do. Next to Godliness is cleanliness. Nobody wants to live in or around filth. Always help people who helped you. Why would you do it any other way? Don’t be a fool for your “friends.”

     Intestinal fortitude seems to have vanished in this current generation. Some of them give up too easily and are extremely fickle. When things fail to work out, they get depressed and feel sorry for themselves. Everyone gets depressed! They just don’t stay that way. People find alternate ways to improve their lives when things get tough, by working towards mending their way through their crisis. As we say in the military, “No pain. No gain!”

     Once you play the, “I’m grown now!” card you will be expected to pay monthly bills and the new ones you have created when they are due and be broke just like all the rest of us grown folks.  Bottom line, responsibility often sucks!

Holy Week Memoir: Sweet Momma Mittie by Serbennia Davis

Posted on March 27, 2018 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

     The three little toddlers were snuggled into a deep sleep at two o’clock in the morning on Palm Sunday in April 1966. Someone pounded on the front door telling their Aunt Gertie that their mother, Mittie had just been killed on the street corner right outside of their front door.

     Momma Mittie stepped out of a friend’s car, walked behind it for her safety, and headed towards her front door a few feet away. She and two others had been out celebrating her thirty-eighth birthday. They had no idea they were being followed and stalked by the next-door neighbor and jealous husband of her friend Eve.

     Buddy was also the nephew of the children's father, Jimmie. Filled with outrage and fuming with anger, he thought it was his unfaithful wife when he saw a woman getting out of the car. He sped up his vehicle and rammed it into Momma Mittie crushing both of her legs between the two cars. Not once, but twice! He backed up his vehicle and raced forward a second time crushing her body to death. She died instantly upon the final impact.

     Screaming “No!” at the top of her lungs, Aunt Gertie woke up everyone.  The frightened toddlers started yelling and crying too, “I want my momma! I want my momma!”  They did not understand what had actually happened. They were very afraid during the commotion.

     Sadly, their reality nightmare became the beginning of the end for them. Infinite innocence had been perpetually stolen – in more ways than one. At ages two, four, and six-years old, they were too young to understand the adult conflict over their mother’s death.

     Lifelong questions haunted them even as adults.  Why did Momma Mittie's side of the family now hate Daddy Jimmie’s side of the family? Why didn't Buddy ever go to jail?  Why had daddy only visited them once after momma's death? Did Momma Mittie sacrifice her life to save Eve?

     Abruptly, they relocated from the little corner house surrounded by pecan trees in hard time Dunn, NC to the fast-paced Chocolate City and high rises of hard time Baltimore, MD with Momma Mittie's sister Annie Mae.  They were three little country bumpkins forced to live, stay and become city slickers.  What would happen to them next?

Art Inspired by the Front Lines

Posted on November 7, 2016 at 10:25 PM Comments comments (2)