Muhammad Ali Earl and Bighouse Emauel Steward Jim Brown Danny Glover Doug Williams Bert Sugar
UNPARALELLED UNCOMPROMISED UNFORGIVEN UNSUNG
HILLCREST CHILDREN'S CENTER SATURDAY PROGRAM:
THE HOUSE HAROLD BELL BUILT!
In the 1960s Children's Hospital was located on 13th Street between W and V Streets, NW. Hillcrest Children's Center was located on 13th and W Streets (Old Turner's Arena). Hillcrest was an affiliate of Children's Hospital. The building housed emotional disturb children. The children served were overwhelmingly white from the Maryland suburbs and upper NW DC. During the week white parents were seen in and out of the facility and on the weekend they would pick-up their children and take them home. On Mondays they would bring the children back.
I was the Roving Leader (Youth Gang Task Force) assigned to the Cardozo/Shaw community. My time was spend one block over on 13th and V Street working out of Harrison Playground and Harrison Elementary. I paid little or no attention to Hillcrest Children's Center.
The Hillcrest complex did not sit well with blacks on the block. More then anything else, the facility was a mystery to them. They wanted to know what the hell was going on, but didn't know who to ask! I was of no help, I knew little or nothing about Hillcrest and how it served the community.
On school days I walked pass the complex and through the neighborhood. I was more concerned about the knuckleheads I would encounter hanging out in the U Street corridor. This was not a good sign. I decided to approach Mr. Cousins, the Harrison Principal. We discussed what remedies we could use to combat these acts of truancy.
My thoughts, why not try to use athletics as a motivational tool? The athletic team concept helped me to improve my school attendance and discipline, why not use the same vehicle for these knuckleheads (I know a knucklehead when I see one, because I was one). I would notice after school the young men who should have been attending Harrison during school hours would migrate to the playground.
With the permission of Mr. Cousins and Roving Leader Director, Stanley Anderson, I held tryouts for the Harrison touch football team on Harrison Playground in the evenings after school. They were some of the greatest young athletes I have ever been associated with. You name the sport, football, basketball, baseball, track and field, most could run like the wind. I wished that I could have been that talented at their young age.
Getting them to tryout for the team was easy, but getting them to improve their attendance and their grades was not going to be an easy chore. The rules of participation were; regular school attendance, maintain a C average, respectful behavior (no profanity) and be on time for school and practice. Easier said then done, some of my best players refuse to abide by the rules. Several I had to dismiss from the team or I benched them in favor of a not so talented teammate, but as we started to win without them, they changed their rebel ways.
I convinced other elementary schools in walking distance of Harrison to participate, Garrison and Grimke principals liked the concept and came aboard. The idea went over so well other elementary schools wanted to participate and the program went city-wide. With my coaching genius, Harrison Elementary won the first City Wide Elementary Touch Football League Championship. The team was called "The Harris Hustlers."
Harrison Rec Center won the first City-Wide Police/Community Relations softball championship, I was the coach, but this time the participants were playground tough guys and Third District cops who though they were just as tough. It took several practices before Andrew Johnson my high school teammate and police officer could convince his colleagues to take off their guns during practice.
The league was the brainchild of the late Mayor for Life, Marion Barry. The league was designed to help improve police community relations and it did for a minute.
In 1968 all hell broke loose after the gun related death of our Prince of Peace in Memphis, Tn, Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember NFL Hall of Fame and Green Bay Packer player Willie Wood and I standing on the corner of 9th and U Streets after having lunch at the in-crowd hangout of the Che Maurice restaurant. It was a beautiful bright sun shiny April 4th day when someone rode by in a car and yelled "Harold Bell they just shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis."
Willie and I were in a state of confusion because we didn't know what to believe until some friends exited from Che Maurice and confirmed that Dr. King had been shot. Our boss Stanley Anderson requested that we stay on the streets because we might be able to save a child. I was told to report to the Third District HQ to meet with Assistant Chief Timon O'Bryant.
I arrived at the precinct and was ushered down to the basement for Roll Call. There I met with Chief O'Bryant and he introduced me to his command. The next words out his mouth and actions stun me. He told the officers to watch my back because I would be on the streets with them trying to keep the peace. He then gave me a police badge to assist me in getting through police and military barricades. My next question "where is my gun?" The Chief's response, 'Harold I don't have the authority to issue you a gun. I don't think any of the looters will be shooting in your direction.' I was not really worried about the looters, it was some trigger happy cop that worried me.
When the armor trucks and military personnel had cleared the U street corridor, there were only three businesses left standing, Lee's Flowers, Industrial Bank of Washington and Ben's Chili Bowl. The Chili Bowl was the only business allowed to stay open during the riots, thanks to an assist from Chief U. S. Marshall in charge Luke C. Moore. After the White House had ordered all businesses to shut-down, Luke intervene on behalf of Ben's explaining to President Lyndon B. Johnson that Ben's needed to stay open for first respondents, doctors, nurses, police, fire departments, military personnel and youth advocates like myself, we needed some place to eat. President Johnson relented and allowed Ben's to stay open.
Out of the rubble and ash, Kids In Trouble emerged. The administrators at the Hillcrest Children's Center reported having problems with neighborhood youth and some adult residents harassing staff and family members of their patients. A friend on the staff of Children's Hospital recommended that they talk with me about the problem. It was here I became known as "The Child Whisper!" The 1300 block of W and V streets NW, the two-block radius was known as my domain.
I met with the Hillcrest Director, Dr. Nicolas Long and his staff to talk about their neighborhood problem. The tour of the facility was an eye opener for me, I could not believe there was a indoor swimming pool, in door and outdoor basketball courts, overnight facilities for patients and a cafeteria. It was like I had found a full service Marriott in the ghetto. The results of the meeting, Dr. Long wanted to open the facility to kids in the neighborhood on the weekends (Saturday only). I thought this was a great ideal, but there was a catch, they wanted me to run the program. I said, "Thanks, but no thanks!"
In hindsight, my reasons were purely selfish. I was a paid starting WR for a minor-league football team, the Virginia Sailors. They were an affiliate of the NFL Washington Redskins. There was no-way I was giving up that job, I still had dreams of playing in the NFL.
I had a sit-down discussion with my wife Hattie, my brother Earl and my friend Andrew Johnson, both DC cops. We reached a compromise and figure out a way to open the facility on Saturdays to neighborhood kids without me missing a game. All out of town games, Hattie, Earl and Andrew would oversee the program. All three were known to the kids in the neighborhood. Home games were played at night and presented no problem, because Hillcrest operating hours were from 12 noon until 3:00 pm,kick-off was 7:00 pm for all home games. The Sailors provided tickets for the Hillcrest kids to attend all home games.
There were a lot of first to come out of Hillcrest Saturday Program; the longest on-going community based Christmas Toy Party started at Hillcrest Saturday Program (1968-2013). The first Santa's Helper was my Virginia Sailor teammate LB George Kelly. The first ever students bused in from Tacoma-Park Seven Day Adventist Church from Tacoma-Park, Md. to mentor inner-city children. Students from Howard and UDC were nowhere to be found. Today, high school and college students can earn credits toward graduation for volunteering in the community (unheard of before 1968).
The first ever NFL Films nationally televised (CBS) community promo was video taped at Hillcrest in 1972. The video shown NFL MVP RB Larry Brown and LB Harold McLinton of the Washington Redskins teaching water safety to inner-city kids.
Dr. Nicolas Long and his wife Jodie are two of the finest human beings I have ever known. Integrity and honesty were their hallmarks during all the community First accomplished at the Hillcrest Saturday Program, they had my back. They inspired the closing of my radio sports talk show, "Every black face you see is not a brother and every white face you see is not your enemy!"
The Price of Gun Violence in America:
Since Sandy Hook, a Kid Has Died by a Gun Every Other Day!
Kids Who Die - by Langston Hughes
This may provide a measure of the changing sameness and shameness in our history, Mississippi burning, Ferguson, LA, Chicago, Charleston, Baltimore, DC, NY City and the beat goes on in the war against black men in America. The Angelo Herndon, reference in the poem, rings familiar it describes a young black Georgian in the 1930's. He was arrested under a state statute for insurrection, because he protested unequal justice and segregation laws while championing an interracial workers movement.. He was summarily sentenced to life in prison, though released on appeal following massive black protests. He later moved to Harlem where he joined the Communist Party, becoming a writer and spokesperson for its causes.
This was not one of Hughes' most famous poems, but it now energizes the moment while embracing renewed meaning and relevancy.
This is for the kids who die, Black and white, For kids will die certainly.The old and rich will live on awhile, as always. Eating blood and gold, letting little kids die.
Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi organizing sharecroppers, Kids will die in the streets of Chicago organizing workers. Kids will die in the orange groves of California telling others to stick together.
Whites and Filipinos, Negroes and Mexicans, all kinds of kids will die who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment and a lousy peace. Of course, the wise and the learned who pen editorials in the papers, and the ladies and gents with Dr. in front of their names, white and black.
Who make surveys and write books will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die.
And the sleazy courts and sleazy attorneys, and the bribe-reaching police, and the blood-loving generals, and the money-loving preachers, will all raise their hands against the kids who die, beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets, to frighten the people.
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—and the old and rich don’t want the people to taste the iron of the kids who die. They don’t want the people to get wise to their own power to believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together and listen to kids who die—Maybe, now there will be no monument for you except in our hearts.
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in swamp or prison grave. swamp or the potter’s field, or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht.
But the day will come—you can be sure yourselves that it is coming—when the marching feet of the masses will rise for you with a living monument of love, and joy, and laughter. And black hands and white hands clasped as one, with a song that reaches the sky—the song of the life triumphant.
Through and for the kids who died.
By Earl Tildon / August 9, 1993
Who is Harold Bell? From where I sit, a man obsessed with youth and children’s plight. He walks swiftly away from compromise, aggressively wanting things right. Who is Harold Bell? From where I sit, he is an arrogant rebel with youth as his cause. He keeps raising their issues without fear or pause.
Why does Harold Bell do what he does, and why does he do it his way? It may be because many others who did it are longer doing it today. It may be that those who have risen to the heights don’t quite remember any more. For once they have left the place of their birth they throw away the key that once opened the door. Harold Bell is no diplomat; perhaps he doesn’t know how the game is played! Perhaps he is naïve to think that “Superstars” are coming back where he stays. Could it be that it is not vogue to court the poor, or not want a black child to die, or maybe it is politically incorrect to ask the question why?
Maybe Harold Bell speaks up too much, or perhaps he is far too crude. Or maybe he has spoken out against the establishment, or maybe he has just been rude. But Harold Bell didn’t invent rudeness nor does he speak as loud as some, for leaders have known through the ages that justice goes to the beating drum.
Harold Bell perhaps understands that silence somehow appears to be consent. And he knows that our oppressors flourish when our heads and backs are bended. He also knows that children maybe homeless or parentless or in pain. He also knows that their need to survive is real and to reach out to our children the World gains.
Thank God Harold Bell has access to the media so that we can read and listen to his candid outspoken word. Thank God for readers and listeners who understand motivation is what we need. Thank God for those like Harold Bell, who speak out against “Kids killing kids,” crack, heroin and speed.
It is hard for me to understand why some may dislike Harold Bell! He is such a nice guy it is hard to believe some would turn him off while little children die. There may have been a word that even Harold Bell could say that would have caused the listener to save a child along the way.
But such is life we can’t always please, so why expect it of Harold Bell? He did not create today’s problems and who are we to judge we do so little well? At least he is study on the course and he is consistent from year to year. We need more Harold Bells who understand our plight and “A Grieving Mother’s Tears.”
"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and say and do nothing.--Albert Einstein
When I received the sad news of the passing of Dr. Frances Cress Welsing in an e-mail from Dr. Al-Tony Gilmore, I had to step away from the computer and take a deep breath. Back in the day she was like a sister I never had.
“Mother, mother there are too many of you crying, brother, brother there are far too many of you dying. We got to find a way to bring some loving here today, war is not the answer—Whats’ Going On?”
Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield were far ahead of their times when it came to message music as it related to the plight of America’s down-trodden. The word genius does not do either justice.
Marvin’s masterpiece album “What’s Going On” did more to expose racism and social injustice in America than any march, demonstration or documentary. Curtis Mayfield’s music messages were equally as important.
Oscar Brown Jr., Gil Scott Heron, Curtis and Marvin were the “Original Rappers.”
Their music still speaks volumes today. The social ills of America are front and center and the politicians could care less!
I met Marvin in the early 50s at Mount Airy Baptist Church in NW Washington, D. C. My Great-Grand-Father the Rev. Alfred Johnson Tyler laid the first brick to help build the historical landmark church in 1893. My Great-Uncle the Rev. Earl Tyler and Marvin’s father were friends.
Marvin was singing in his father’s choir and they were the guest choir at the church on that Sunday. When he first saw me his eyes got as big as flying saucers. I knew Marvin’s secret. He was a street corner messenger of Do-Wop. I would often see him singing under the street lights in my NE housing project. This type of street corner harmony was not allowed in the Gaye household.
Marvin’s Do-Wop group was very popular and performed at my alma mater Spingarn High School’s annual Spring Festival talent show. Parkside resident Robert Neal and Lincoln Heights resident Billy Bess were a part of the group.
Marvin and I had a lot in common, he had a church background. He caddied on the weekends at Indian Springs Golf Course in a Maryland suburb and I caddied on the weekends at Burning Tree Golf Course in Potomac, Maryland. He had always wanted to be an athlete and I always wanted to sing. It was wishful thinking by us both.
Our encounter was like “What’s happening man?” He gave the signal by putting his finger over his lips meaning ‘Please don’t say anything about me doing Do-Wop on the street corner.’ I read him loud and clear.
After church we enjoyed Sunday dinner together in the downstairs dining area. We talked sports the entire time.
During our high school days he always wanted to talk ball, but I never ever saw him play pick-up ball on any city playground!
Marvin attended Cardozo High School at that time and I remember asking him why he had not tried out for the team. His response, “My parents won’t sign the permission letter.”
I told him my mother would not sign the same letter either but I forged her signature. He wanted to be an athlete in the worst way.
He was found often working out with the Detroit Lions (NFL), Detroit Pistons (NBA), Detroit Tigers (MLB) and the Kronk boxing gym in his adopted hometown. He would work out on the heavy bag and speed bag and sometimes he would spar with boxing greats Thomas Hearns and Hilmer Kenty. These were some of his favorite hangouts. He was living out his athletic fantasy.
Marvin grew up in northwest section of Washington, DC and I grew up in the northeast section and we were like passing ships in the night after that church encounter.
Several years later my family moved to 58th and Blaine Streets NE, another housing project on East Capitol Street. My next encounter with Marvin would be on those same NE streets.
I was headed out to school one morning and waiting at the bus stop was Marvin, once again the shout-out was “What’s happening man?” I remember saying ‘What are you doing out here man, you are a long ways from home?’ He said ‘I am just staying with some friends for a minute.’
The friend was Peasie Adams. Peasie lived down the street from me and she baby sit me when I was just a puppy in Parkside.
After his tragic death she was the brains behind “Marvin Gaye Day” and building a memorial park in his name.
Marvin said he was on the way to the golf course to see if he could pick up a few dollars. I found that rather strange since this was a school day. Marvin had moved in with Peasie because of some conflict with his father which he never elaborated on. As I was getting off the bus at 24th and Benning Road, his last words to me were “I am thinking about joining the Army and if not I will see you around.”
In the meantime, Marvin had disappeared and I would later discover he had joined the United States Air Force.
I remember Marvin as a quiet and thoughtful brother who loved to laugh, but always seem to have a lot on his mind.
In 1957, I was coming into my own as an all-around athlete at Spingarn High School and I started to smell myself (I began to think I was “all that” and a bag of chips). I played football, basketball and baseball. I drove my coaches and teammates crazy because I had troubled understanding it was about the team and not Harold Bell.
I was not a great athlete as some would claim but I wanted the ball when the game was to be won or lost! I took the risk of making or missing the shot that was my competitor side.
My baseball coach Dr. Leo Hill kicked me off the team my junior year, Coach Dave Brown (savior) locked me in the bus at half-time of a football game during my junior year and basketball coach Dr. William Roundtree said “No Mas” in the middle of the season during my senior year. I was in almost as much conflict as Marvin!
I would steal home with the ball game on the line, take the last shot to win or lose the basketball game and demanded the ball be thrown to me regardless of the double team.
Marvin Gaye had those same characteristics as an artist he took risk that others dared not take in the music industry (Curtis Mayfield was the exception). Motown founder Berry Gordy refused to release “What’s Going On” because he thought it was too radical!
In 1958, I was going to hell in a hurry just as my Brown Middle School Principal William B. Stinson had predicted. One night I was hanging out on the corner of 7th and T Streets at the landmark Howard Theatre when Marvin appeared out of nowhere. I joked that someone had told me he was in jail. His response, “Almost, the U. S. Air Force but I am getting paroled in a few months.”
He wanted to hear about what was happening in my life. I tried to put on a happy face that I was doing well too proud to say “Marvin my life is in shambles.”
After that sighting Marvin and I lost contact with each other for another decade. The next thing I knew his career had taken off (Moonglows) and again we became like ships passing in the night. We would run into each other occasionally while he was in town to perform and see his family. He was much like me a mommy’s boy. He would later tell me his mother was the only thing that really brought him back to DC.
Marvin kept a low profile when he was in town but he never let success change him. He stayed close to family.
He would always say to me, “Harold we have got to get together the next time I am in town.” We would exchange numbers but we never called each other. I would always hear after the fact he was in town, but I never took it personal that he didn’t call.
It always looked to me he went out of his way to say “I have not forgotten.” There were also the “he said, she said” rumors about him and his father having major problems.
In 1971, I had done my college tour and was playing semi-pro football and had received a Presidential Appointment. I used my White House contacts to open a Half-Way House for juvenile delinquents on Bolling Air Force Base, the first of its kind in the nation. Around that time Marvin had released “What’s Going On.”
I was so proud of the brother I called the Motown office in Detroit and left a message congratulating him. The song hit close to home it reminded me of our early struggles and little had changed. It was still an uphill battle.
In 1972, Marvin came home to perform at the Kennedy Center. Petey Green, the legendary radio and television personality and I managed to work our way backstage to say hello. The first thing he said when saw me was “Now you are a politician, I am looking for you in the NFL and you show up at the White House. I still love you anyway.” We laughed and hugged and he moved on to the next group of well wishers.
I remember going to Detroit in August 1980 to cover and watch Thomas Hearns knockout Pipino Cuevas to win his first title. My first call was to an old friend Wayne Davis. Wayne worked as an undercover agent for the FBI and hailed from Newark, New Jersey. We met on the streets of DC when I was working as a “Gang Buster” for the Roving Leader Program for the DC Recreation Department.
We became fast friends and stayed in touch even after his job moved him from one city to another. His brotherly advice and wisdom helped me out of some tight spots on the mean streets of DC. If one public official had heeded my advice “The Bitch would have never set him up.”
Wayne’s final destination was Detroit, Michigan, where he became the first black to be named Director of the FBI Field Office. When I got to the hotel he picked me up and took me on a tour of the FBI Office. This was a brother who kept it real and never forgot who he was and where he came from.
I called Marvin and invited him to join us on the tour but when I told him we were going to tour the FBI Building and who Wayne was he begged off and said laughingly “They might keep me. I will see you guys tonight.”
It would be in Las Vegas in September 1979 Marvin would surprise me at a weigh-in for Sugar Ray Leonard. The fighter Ray was facing was undefeated Andy Price. He was owned and managed by Marvin.
Marvin was riding high and talking shit that his fighter was going to knock Ray out. He even said, “Harold after Andy knocks out Sugar Ray you can come and work for me.” We laughed he was in such good spirits. He loved being in this element. After the ceremonial weigh-in we made plans to meet for breakfast after the fight and hang out for a minute together.
With all of his success Marvin was still a loner there was no entourage or groupies following him around. The night of the fight Marvin was scheduled to sing the National Anthem. That would be his highlight for evening. Sugar Ray knocked Price out in the first round. Marvin was stunned and so was the crowd in attendance. I figured Ray would beat Price but I never expected a first round knockout.
Marvin’s next move surprised me further. He found me at the press conference and said “Don’t forget we are having breakfast in the morning.” I could see he was hurting and embarrassed by his fighter’s performance but he wanted me to know breakfast was still on. Marvin was still for real and had a heart of gold.
We had breakfast the next morning in one of Caesar’s Palace’s restaurants at 10:00 am. It would be close to lunch time when we finished talking about DC and how far we both had come from the East Capitol street projects.
We laughed about him hearing me on radio one Saturday evening as he was headed out of town and how proud it made him feel. He again brought up seeing me on television at the White House with President Nixon. He said “I could not believe my eyes.”
It was then I told him I was seriously thinking about running for the DC City Council seat in Ward 7 where we once lived. Marvin’s response was “If you feel it, do it and if I can help just call me. We need our own people in office.” He said, ‘Harold I have traveled the world but there is nothing like home and family.’
I reminded Marvin in Vegas about the Detroit trip and my conversation with him, he said “Harold I don’t even remember talking to you and I thought I attended the fight. I was probably in my other world.”
There were two things we never discussed, his drug problem or his strange relationship with his father. The topics were never broached, I didn’t do drugs and I had no relationship with my father. Case closed.
After breakfast he took me to a Diana Ross concert with him later that evening. We met in the hotel lobby for the first show and Marvin had an usher take me to a seat right in front of the stage. He disappeared after giving me his numbers where I could reach him if I needed him.
I thought he had left the theatre until midway through her show Diana said “I want to introduce my baby who has joined us this evening.” I was looking for her to introduce one of her children, when she said ‘The one of a kind Marvin Gaye.’ Marvin was standing in the back of the theatre in a corner by himself when the spotlight found him. He received a standing ovation.
Once I got back to DC I called to thank him for his hospitality he had shown me in Las Vegas. He said ‘It was about time my brother, I also enjoyed the quiet time we spend talking about our hometown. By the way I am getting out of boxing, this shit is too hard’ we both laughed. That was the last time I spoke with him.
I will never forget where I was when I heard that Marvin’s father had shot and killed him in Los Angeles. I was driving on Southern Avenue in southeast Washington, DC listening to WHUR Radio. There was a news flash that said “Marvin Gaye shot and killed in Los Angeles.”
I was on the way to Southeast Community Hospital. My brother Earl a 16 year veteran of the DC Police Metropolitan Department had been involved in a head on collision on the way to work a week earlier and the prognosis was he was not expected to live.
Now I am getting more bad news that Marvin was dead. I pulled off to the side of the road and cried for several minutes until an ambulance siren brought me back to reality. Marvin’s father had made himself, the judge, the jury and the executioner.
“Brother, brother, brother, everybody thinks we are wrong, but who are they to judge us simply because we wear our hair long. What’s going on?”