Why am I posting a picture like this you might ask. I’m Tim Hayes ..the guy that the chief of police in Atlanta Georgia. Herbert Jenkins .once described as a “mad dog cop killer”…That was when I was the founder of and for a while until I left for Cuba and Africa the Captain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Black Panther Party.. But The fact that after those days I like to consider myself an honest historian. Meaning when you speak of history …you have to say what your research has revealed ….whether you like it or not or whether it fits your preferred world view or not. That’s what separates real historians from hacks….and there are a lot of hacks out there…The history of Black community relations with city police forces for the most part has been a history of an “occupying force” rather than people who are there to “protect and serve”…But I know from over fifty years of observation that there really are decent people out there who wear the blue suit…When I got the worst beating of my life..by a cop….and I have gotten several, it took two rookie cops to come and pull the sadistic pig Sgt.. Eldren Bell off of me…he still managed to crack my skull..The officer who took care of me later and got me medical attention.. Later sued the Atlanta police Dept. for police brutality…his name was DeWitt Smith…I will never forget him..that was 1970…Since that time I have seen that the culture of the urban American police officer has changed very little..They usually don’t tell when a fellow officer ignores someone’s rights…and most of the times when they do they get ugly treatment from their co-workers. But there are real people on the police force who step up from time to time and many of them have been people I know ..or the child of someone I know…and one of the most decent people I know is a nephew of mine who is an officer in Georgia…so yes we should keep shedding the light on those pigs on the force who abuse the people they are sworn to protect..but we also need to help create a culture where those people on the police force who REALLY are there to “protect and serve” are more willing to step up when they are protecting one of us from one of their co-workers…..I know I will get a lot of flack for this….I just had a talk with a Philadelphia policeman who I know from my days as a counselor at Olney High School in Philly where he was student..he will be reporting another officer tonight for assaulting a woman he had already arrested …I wish him well..oh yes and by the way ….I never killed a police officer.
Of course this is not directed at all the younger activists…of whom I as an “old soldier” of the movement am very proud. But to the people that I keep running into who say that the people of the old civil rights movement did “nothing” ..or that we quit and didn’t do enough…one guy told me last night that if we meant anything back then cops wouldn’t still be shooting us , and we wouldn’t still be getting lynched…Well while we all know that racism continues …I humbly submit that the people who say that have no f**king idea what they are talking about. That they don’t know their history and have no idea just how bad things were. They don’t know what we have seen, they don’t have a clue about how many comrades we lost. And most of all don’t seem to understand how many of the things that are possible for them…were TOTALLY out of reach for us and the people who came before us. When I was a child one of the first things my uncles taught me was how to walk around town….”when a white person walks toward you on the sidewalk , you keep your head down”…”before you learn to read, learn the letter C and the letter W…cause if you don’t know what they mean you may not make it home that night” No matter how well educated you were unless you got a job teaching school you still could end up mopping someones floors..or that most sought after job of Blacks with a masters degree …being a mailman…One of the things that I didn’t even know was “new” was to see a sign outside that said ” a man was lynched yesterday” …and we saw that everyday….in NYC they even flew flags outside NAACP offices..That was something I at the time did not know was apart of a major victory of the generation that came before us…what me and my generation didn’t know is that just a few years before that ..anybody that put up a sign like that or flew a flag like that would have been burned out on the first day. I remember when you NEVER saw a Black person on a jury, the term “jury of your peers” meant nothing. I remember when the rednecks who sometimes were just as poor as us would play a game called “nigger baseball”…they could drive down the street and when they saw a black man walking down the street they would lean out of the car and smack him in the head with a baseball bat…..if you hit him you got to take a drink out of a bottle..nobody EVER went to jail for doing this. Oh yeah can we talk about where we had to sit on the bus, can we talk about how many stores had signs saying “WHITE ONLY”…or how if you were in many downtown parts of cities there was no place you could go to the bathroom…And we can talk all day about voting..And as far as cops still shooting us….when I think of how much myself and the sisters and brothers of the Black Panther Party had to go through…where the government openly declared war on us and tried to wipe us out HOW DARE YOU SAY WE DID NOTHING.I have to say at this point that one of the things I heard most from my comrades all the time ..was that our main goal was to make sure we were the last generation that had to learn to put up with this shit..Now it was not until I got older that I truly understood that my generation could only change the things we changed because of the things the the generation that came before us had done…the “anti-lynching” movement, and the people like the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters …yeah, none of you know who that was.look them up…but in many ways you younger people as well as my generation owe those guys SO MUCH..because we would not have dared to have a civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s if those men and women had not taken a stand and risked their lives in the 20s and 30s…Younger activists …know that we love you all but know that my generation did not start this thing…and your generation won’t end it..and maybe your children’s generation won’t end it either ….but don’t be stupid…the “civil rights” generation..because we were the largest in number made more change for our people in a shorter time than any generation before us…we didn’t change everything….and you won’t either….but when we were out there….and I still am. I learned that we stood on the shoulders of giants…….you do too.
I was offline for the most part yesterday ..I just found out that my best friend in the 5th 6th and 7th grade Virgil Howard passed away. Virgil and I became friends when my family moved from the monster public housing project …Carver Homes into a community of small affordable ( 10,000 dollars, a lot of money in 1959-60 ) houses in a subdivision on the northwestern edge of the city of Atlanta.Called “Lincoln Homes”. It was still very much the time of “jim crow” and Virgil and I met when we found out that the only place close by that sold comic books..( I mean the real deal D.C. and Marvel..not the “Archie” and “Donald Duck” stuff which were called “funny books” in those days) did not allow Black people to even come into the store. We ended up coming up with schemes every month to get some white person to go into the store and make a purchase for us…sometimes we paid a white “wino” to go inside…one summer we went into the surrounding woods and picked buckets of plums to give to the white church lady who lived across the street from the store and she would go in and buy from the list of our favorites that we would give her. Virgil and I in those days were true kindred spirits ..not just comics but we discovered all the classic fantasy writers Ray Bradbury, John W. Campbell., Isaac Asimov.,Arthur C. Clarke.and Robert A. Heinlein. together ..we knew already that we were a lot smarter than the kids we went to school with ..but didn’t dwell on it. I guess it was my interest in being a musician, and later the civil rights movement that caused us to drift apart when we got to high school .I sort of went with the academic crowd while Virgil became something of a loner…But we only lived one block apart so I still saw him everyday. We really did go through a lot together and I treasure the time of discovering who we were together. I have always felt kind of sad that we did not keep in touch…The last time I saw Virgil was about 1976..long after high school walking down the street not far from his parents house. I already lived in Philly by then but we had a beer and talked a little ..I heard two days ago from a class mate that Virgil was ill and in the Hospital..I was off the computer yesterday and at 7 this morning I read that he had passed…this might be the worst thing about this time in life ..when you lose people or things and regret ….strongly how you didn’t get to spend more time with them or let them know how important they were…I have no idea what kind of life Virgil lived as an adult..and I regret that..but where ever he is I wish him peace….this is a picture of Virgil Howard from our high school yearbook …he was voted ” most humorous”