Journal Entry 5: Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.
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Fifth Stop: Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.!
After we finished visiting Montgomery during the bus boycott, we were talking with Kane, Dyna, his fiancée, and Candace. They had the cutest bookstore and it stayed packed. Dyna said it was because people came to see Kane, the man who threw out patrons left and right. They were a close couple and I saw great things in their future.
My time was running out, so I had to leave early, but as I made my exit, Jared caught up with me.
“Going on your date, now?” he asked.
“Something like that?” I responded as I was a little puzzled about what he was insinuating.
“Is this a boyfriend or just a date?”
“Why?” I was beginning to feel interrogated.
Why was he asking me these questions and where did he get off thinking I needed to answer them?
“I wanted to know if there was any real competition.” He leaned into my space.
“Uh,” I stuttered. “Competition? Uh?”
“Well, I see that the cat has your tongue, right now. So I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jared moved by me and went out the door, leaving the chime to ring in my thoughts.
I tossed and turned all night thinking about Jared and his questions or proposition or whatever the hell that was. He wanted to take me out? I’m assuming or try to find out if I did date married men or men that were taken. Who knew? The man was a mystery.
“Hey David,” I greeted as I walked into the store.
“Hey, suga.” He replied with a gentle smile. “How was that date last night. Did you knock ‘em dead?”
“Well.” I started. “It wasn’t really a date, just a recital with my nephew. His mom is out of town and he use the term, date, for anything he and I do. So, he knocked ‘em dead.” I laughed.
“That’s pretty awesome, suga. He’s lucky to have you.”
“Thanks, David. I’m fortunate to have him. He keeps me laughing.”
“That’s what nieces and nephews do,” another voice entered the conversation.
This startled me, so I turned around and saw Jared right behind me, looking like he just won a prize. His eyes were bright with excitement, mouth in a smile and he held two of Candace’s mocha frappes in his hand.
I smiled and said, “Yes, that is what they do.”
His arm extended, bringing the frappe closer to me. “For you.”
“Oh, uh. Thanks.” I wasn’t sure how to handle this gentler Jared.
David interjected into our bubble and asked, “Are you both ready?”
I whipped around and said, “Oh yeah. Sorry.”
“Great.” David smiled at the both of us as if he knew something we didn’t.
We were in a classroom and there were, at least, ten young black men in older army uniforms gathered around an older man in a beige short-sleeve shirt and brown dress pants. He was very distinguished and all the men except one seem to hang on his very word.
“Listen, they are treating us like we aren’t capable of being on the front lines with them. We’re expected to simply cook and entertain. We aren’t strong, fast and able to fight?” One of the soldiers griped.
Yeah,’s were heard around the room.
“Then, they sit around and ridicule us, like we’re too dumb to understand what they are saying.” Another spoke up. “I mean, for all of that, they treat us like the enemy we are fighting.”
More ‘yeahs’ rang out as the older man wrote down each and every comment.
“Anything else?” he asked.
The men continued to share various experiences and then we were suddenly transported to an office that consisted of five white men and the same older black man.
“General Davis’ how goes it?” One man in a highly decorated uniform greeted him. “The wife, kids?”
“All is well general. All is well. Ben, Jr. is getting so big these days.” He smiled.
“Good to hear. Good to hear.” He nodded. “So, what brings you here and out of your precious classroom. We know you love to teach.”
“Some of my students and fellow black officers have serious complaints that I’d like to address with the counsel,” he waved his head around.
There were a few audible sighs, but they placated the old man and the head guy said, “You know these things are out of our control. We can’t train the soldiers to deviate from their beliefs.”
“And that Keith, is where you are wrong and why I won’t accept this sense of that’s the way they are.” The older man’s voice raised and so did his body when he leaned towards the head. “You know. You know, that I know about the brutality that I faced in this precious army. You also know that the Army trains the soldiers to be killers, assassins, and ready for combat at all times. Some are cut out for it and some aren’t. But you know. These men were not born killers, just like they weren’t born racist. If it’s allowed and promoted in this room, by the leadership, soldiers follow suit. If it is discouraged, even reprimanded, it will stop. It will still exist, I am not a naïve man, but it will not be so prominent. We are talking about leadership, Commander. We are talking about a house divided. We are talking about your soldiers feeling like they are being treated worse than the enemy by their fellow soldiers. No matter what you think about blacks, we are not civilians. The last I heard, we were the army. We have our own rules and our own family.” The old man shook his head. “It’s not right and you know that I know it is true.”
The Commander and the men in the room said nothing. Before, they sighed, but now they said nothing as the older man threw their own mantra and words back in their face. He did not acquiesce to their comradery and he did not hold back with his accusations of not the soldiers, but their part in the way they lead.
A man on the end finally spoke up and said, “Benjamin, uh. I never really thought about it like that.”
The other men nodded their heads, then the commander said, “You’re damn right, General.” He shook his head and cursed, “We’ve been doing it all wrong and you’re damn right.”
“I’ll get a task force together,” another man spoke up.
“Benjamin, can you go with us to the Inspector General?”
“We’ll need to plan a strategy to reverse this and Ben, we’d need your help.”
“Yes, sir.” He nodded, “I would be happy to.”
The men continued to plan, rally and brainstorm ways to implement the changes.
“What just happened here?” David asked us.
“They respected his opinion,” Jared replied.
“Yes, there was something else very powerful here.”
“What?” I asked.
“It wasn’t the fact that he was in a position to give an opinion, but it was what he did with what the soldiers told him.”
“You mean, he didn’t use it to gain popularity,” I asked.
Jared nodded his head, then said, “He was in a position of power and he used it for good.”
“OH, he could have thrown the other guys under the bus and had them kicked out the army for insubordination. He even appealed to the guy’s knowledge of him. They seemed to be old friends.”
“Right.” David nodded. “Many times we find ourselves in positions of power for various reasons, but instead of advocating for those that aren’t or were in the same situations that we were once in, we forget and sell out.” He looked at the scene that continued to play before us and continued, “Or we don’t use it to make an effective change because we are too worried about our own self-preservation.”
“You really like this general?” I asked.
“Oh yes. Benjamin O Davis, Sr. is one reason why I do what I do.”
He said no more and I didn’t want to push, but this time, it seemed like it was David looking and reflecting on what was taking place.
“What are you doing tomorrow evening?” Jared interrupted my thoughts.
“Nothing. Why what’s up?”
“Go with me to see a play tomorrow night?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“Cajoling you.” He smiled.
“Okay.” I nodded. “I’ll join you.”
It was his turn to nod his head and one side of his mouth lifted up. “Then it’s a date?”
Thank you for experiencing Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. with us! We hope you stay tuned as we continue to explore various figures during this month and that you’ll take this snippet and learn more about General Davis and his contribution to the armed forces.
- Why do you think Toni accepted Jared’s date offer?
- Experience the next historical figure, Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court
- Find out who Day 7 will feature