Bridge Over Troubled Water

In 1970, as a 19 year old Brooklyn College student, I travelled to Cairo, Illinois where Black folks were then involved in a multi year boycott of businesses owned by Whites who were supporting the neo-Nazi White Hats and KKK. The neo Nazis firebombed black owned businesses and fired shots into Black churches and homes at night. Well Blacks decided to pick up arms to fight back then, led by Reverend Charles Koen. Julian Bond and many other Blacks travelled to Cairo to stand against the White Christian terrorism!

So a group of 10+ Black and Puerto Rican students decided that we would deliver a U-Hall van of food and clothing to the besieged Blacks in Cairo. Cairo in 1862 had received thousands of Black runaways from enslavement in the South. The federal government under Abraham Lincoln sent the Army in and placed the Blacks in internment camps to calm the hostile Whites in this Northern Town. One hundred years later the descendants of those Whites were also enraged and determined to subjugate Black folks, who were not ready to play that game!

On the way our car had difficulty in Indiana. My friends, who all grew up in NYC, wanted to get off the highway and go into a nearby Indiana town to fix the car. Although I was the president of our student union, that was the one time they voted against my advice; they voted against my caution about going into town. You see I was born in Georgia and I knew Indiana was up South. Within minutes of our arrival at the gas station all the White folks in that town came over to see the Black folks! Thank God they were only curious! They didn't even attempt to rub the black and brown off of us or run their fingers through our Afros!

Later while passing through the Windy City, we decided to stop in the Cabrini Green housing projects to see the home of the Black P Stone Rangers street gang! Within two seconds of our arrival there we were surrounded by 3-4 cars of plains clothes detectives! When we explained to the lead detective, who happened to be Black, that we were on our way to Cairo with food, clothes and supplies, he let us go without searching us! Thank God, because one of the Brothers had disobeyed our agreement not to carry arms on our journey! We were concerned that we might be stopped and searched. When he nervously showed us the 357 a few minutes later, we threw it out on the highway.

In Cairo we joined as sentries to protect the Black church which was being fired upon almost nightly. We also had the joy before nightfall of listening to this 13 year old little Sister give a heartwarming rendition of Aretha Franklin's "Bridge over Troubled Water" that remains as fresh in my mind as if it was just yesterday.

Yeah, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" could have been an anthem for Black folks at that time when we were all about lifting our people during a time before we adopted the rank materialism of the larger white society! Now our pastors are more interested in getting rich than in uplifting the race, and they feed us the same worship of Mammon that is the hallmark of the White church and society! And I write that as someone who grew up in the church and who celebrates that Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner carried a gun with their Bibles as they pursued social justice!


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