"BATTLING THE BLESSINGS"
From Chapter - 19
|20 YEARS IN THE MAKING
2 YEARS TO WRITE
OVER 50 YEARS OF HISTORY
"GOD HAS TRULY BLESSED ME"
|Author : Terry Fulgham
|Life time membership as a UAW member,
Supporter of all Unions.
" Together We Stand Divide We Fall "
|Excerpt From Chapter - 19
|Send mail to contact battlingtheblessings with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 2008 Terry Fulgham. No part of this web site including photographs may be reproduced in any form without the express written
permission of the author. Last modified: July 5,2013
Author Terry Fulgham
Two weeks later, I was on my job, working the line. I had a new foreman who was giving me a rough time for
missing work. I was really thinking like a black militant and how the white power structure was treating black
people, as a people who had been op-pressed for hundreds of years here in America.
The Detroit Riot of 1967 seemed to have an effect on how inner-city life was and how black Americans were
living. Not only did I talk like a black militant, but I looked like one.
I had this large afro hair-do, black beret, the short leather jacket, and the black leather gloves. I re-fused to
accept that I wasn’t anything but a proud black man, and I let anyone and everyone know that I wasn’t
“colored” or a “negro.”
Most of the negroes that I worked with on the assembly line were either scared of being associated with me, or
they just didn’t care what was going on at work, just as long as they got a check every week.
All over America, black people were rising up and voicing their opinions loud and clear about problems they
were having in their own communities and neighborhoods. Black people were encouraging other blacks to
stand up and be a part of the “Black Power Movement” and to participate in a cause that could help benefit
The Black Power Movement encouraged the improvement of African-American communities, rather than fight
for complete integration. I had just finished reading a powerful book by Elijah Muhammad called “Message to
the Black man in America.”
Elijah Muhammad, by far, was the most powerful black man in America. He was known more for the students
he produced like Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and Muhammad Ali. I was listening and reading messages of
radical civil rights activists like H. Rap Brown, the Black Panther Party activist Eldridge Cleaver, Malcom X, and
It was a time that black pride was having an effect in America, and I wanted to be a part of the revolution. The
movement stemmed from the earlier civil rights movements, but its meaning was vigorously debated. To some
blacks, Black Power represented racial dignity and self-reliance (freedom from white authority in both
economic and political arenas). To others, it was economic in orientation.
Even at the factory where I was working, black people were taking a back seat due to our working conditions.
Although the United Auto Worker’s Union (UAW) represented everyone, there was a movement to form a black
Caucus at our plant. We were meeting at the Tilden Street Hall, which was a local black club otherwise known
as the Tilden Morocco Club, on the North end of Flint.
The black workers would meet every Sunday and discuss the problems we were having with the UAW not
representing us, by not having enough black skilled tradesmen, or having black fore-men.
This was an internal problem with the way our local was handling the problems of black workers. We wanted
our local UAW to speak up for all workers, not just half step with us blacks. Everything wasn’t equal in terms
of representation, as far as our local automobile plant. This wasn’t a one-time event. We were a united group
of auto workers who had a union inside of a union. Things started to change for the better for black workers at
Pancake told me why he really didn’t like the guy he had beat-up at the café. We were over at my apartment,
just the two of us getting high, drinking beers, and doing our favorite drug: cough syrup.
“Reggie,” he said, “I need to explain some-thing to you.” Then he took a sip of beer. “Look, man, I didn’t lie to
you. I just didn’t tell you the whole story.”
“Hey, man,” I said, “you know you can always talk to me.”
I was a little angry with him because I felt he lied to me.
“Yeah,” he said, “You need to know what the deal is between me and that little punk-ass nigger.”
Pancake dropped his head. His head stayed down so long, and he wasn’t saying a word, so I thought that
maybe he was nodding from drinking his cough syrup. I fell off into a little nod, too.
Then, all of a sudden, he said, “Fuck man, this is it. Me and Shannon, we go together. She’s my woman.”
“Who is Shannon?” I said, with a surprised voice.
I was looking for him to talk to me about this guy who he jumped on.
Pancake said, “She is my woman. She’s the chick that was with Jake.”
“Pancake, I said, “wait a minute. You’re going to have to slow down. Man, you know I’ve been drinking and I’m
full of this goddamn cough syrup.
You’re calling out names I don’t recognize. Slow down, brother.”
“Okay, man,” Pancake said. “Don’t get so ex-cited. Shannon Williams is her name. She lives on the Southside.
I’ve been dating her for maybe a year or so. When I came back from Saginaw, I hadn’t seen her for a while until
I ran into her and this nigger named Jake Purdue at the café. Man, I just lost it.”
“Pancake,” I said, “why did you jump on him?”
“Because,” Pancake said, “ain’t no nigger gonna punk me out.”
He looked at me with this shit-eating grin, “Man, you know I wasn’t going to take that.”
I didn’t say anything and he was quiet, too. Then, I said, “What are you gonna do?”
“I went to the school he goes to, looking for him,” he said. “He saw me and started running. There was no way
I could catch him. You know, that nigger is a track star I heard he took state,” Pancake said with a frown on his
face. “Reggie, I know where he lives. I waited on Baker Street until I saw him coming home. I jumped out from
between two houses that were close to his, and whipped the shit out of him again.”
I said, “You did what?”
“Reggie,” Pancake said, “you should have seen his face when he saw me.”
“Pancake,” I said as loud as I could, “Man, leave that guy alone.”
“Shitttt man,” Pancake said, “every time I see him, I am going to whip his ass. I even told him that and I put the
word out that he belonged to me.”
I was thinking this can’t be anything but trouble. Pancake and I spent the rest of the day together, getting high
It was Saturday morning, when I got a phone call from Mrs. Stoner, Pancake’s mother.
She said, “Reggie, I want you come to Hurley Hospital. Jesse was hurt last night.”
“What happened, Mrs. Stoner?” I asked.
“Just come to the sixth floor,” she said. “I will see you when you get here.” Then she hung up the phone. It
didn’t take me long to get to the hospital. When I made it to the sixth floor, it was crowded with so many of his
friends, which also happened to be my friends, and they were all standing around with sad looks on their faces.
I saw Mrs. Stoner and she motioned for me to come over to where she was standing. Everybody in the lobby
was watching us. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to anyone. I was completely in the dark as far as what happened
to Pancake and why all these people were standing around with sad looks on their faces.
“Reggie,” she said, “a gang of boys jumped on Jesse last night and they found him lying on their front porch
Pancake’s mother was crying. “Reggie, the doctor said Pancake is brain dead and I will have to make a
decision to stop the life support. I wanted you to see him before they stopped the support.”
Then Mrs. Stoner threw her arms around me and said, “I know that Jesse would want you to say goodbye to
him. He loves you and I know that you love him. Go Reggie, and say your goodbyes now, son.”
As I entered the room, I saw what would stay with me the rest of my life. I broke down and started to cry.
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