BAVC’s 2019 “Rediscovering Lost Values” Tour through The South
Offered a Protector Insights into Himself and Others…
Pt. I of a Multi-Part Series
I had been asked to provide a safe environment and transportation for a four-day event by my friend of over twenty years, Reverend Taharka Robinson. Hark; his incredibly intelligent, supportive wife, Mrs. Bianca Robinson; and his longtime friend Bruce Paul Green, president of the Brooklyn Anti-Violence Coalition, take a yearly journey South with African American children and adults on an event they call “Rediscovering Lost Values Tour.” By the end of the three days in Georgia and Alabama, I came to think of the journey as an “Awakening.”
The first day was pretty easy. Settle in, food, a little bit of driving, and as is most first days of every trip, logistics, logistics, logistics: How many people in total, how many children, how many adults, who goes in what vehicle, who shares a room together and in what room, what was everyone’s name and then try to match all the names to all the faces, get a full count each time we start and stop; that sort of day.
We had all flown from Brooklyn, New York into Atlanta, Georgia at different times and were picked up and taken to a nearby hotel. I arrived at 9am and was able to meet with my cousin who moved to Georgia from New York many years back, and another friend for a short time before the workday had begun. Free time isn’t the norm when doing this type of work, so I truly enjoyed the opportunity.
That evening, after everyone was introduced and had learned some new names and faces, Rev. Robinson took the entire troop out to Ruby Tuesday for dinner. The thirty-plus group of Brooklynites enjoyed the meal with an entire section to us. We were a little loud, but not raucous; everyone was polite. I watched, trying to glean some things about the people who would be my companions for the next few days.
The tour would have three vehicles worth of passengers, two 15-passenger vans and a minivan consisting of drivers, adults and children whose ages ranged from approximately thirteen to nineteen; twelve children in all, seven girls and five boys. I was tasked with driving and protecting the teens along with two adult supervisors who were also under my care. My longtime friend, Chris, who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, drove the second passenger van. He was a former NYPD and Georgia police officer who had moved to the Atlanta area. He and I had worked together doing nightclub security during the mid-90s. Chris drove the ‘adult van.’ This was Chris’ third trip and he knew what the experience was going to be like, I did not. In the end, I was thrust into something that I truly wasn’t prepared to for…
Day two was the real beginning. Chris had arrived early that morning and after a quick ‘hello’ we got started on the day. Before we set out, and with those in my charge finally in the van, I got the teens and adults used to taking attendance. I called out their names in the same order each time they loaded in, just before we were driving off. Also, before leaving on the trip for the first time, I made sure to ask if anyone had any allergies, or any other medical issues. One of the boys was asthmatic. When asked if he had his inhaler, he said, “No.” He and I looked for his luggage as we had packed them in the vehicles randomly. I wanted to ensure that he had his inhaler before leaving. I told him that he’s to carry it with him the entire trip without exception. He agreed.
Finally, with everyone and everything packed into the vehicles, we drove to the first stop on the day’s agenda, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. We disembarked, and Rev. Robinson with his troop, gathered together outside taking group photos to memorialize the first steps of their journey. He gave specific instructions about behavior, then led them in a hand-held group prayer. Chris and I were with vans as we watched on. A car pulled up next to me, it was an old friend and client, A.J. Calloway, former host of BET’s 106 & Park and currently of EXTRA. While driving to the museum for an event he saw me and pulled over. We chatted for a moment and I asked him to meet with the kids. Gracious as ever, he didn’t disappoint. The teens were ecstatic. He took group photos and spoke to them a bit before having to get to his own appointment. I was happy to see their faces alight and smiling with having met the TV star. I suppose that my first contribution to the trip was a hit as they later asked me about other famous people I’ve bodyguarded. The group eventually went into the museum while Chris and I drove to a nearby parking area with the vans and caught up on life. We had a lot of laughs in those two hours.
When they were done at the museum, we all settled in nearby for a quick lunch together. Nothing is truly quick when it comes to a group of thirty plus. Afterwards, we saddled up and Chris and I drove in tandem to the next venue. We drove 163 miles to Montgomery, Alabama to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Again, I listened intently as well as I could to the chatter of the teens under my watch. Over the next few days I learned that they are truly good young people with great values who are kin- hearted and respectful. By the end of the trip, I was happy to have met them all.
Outside of the famed church, Rev. Robinson gathered everyone together for more photos. They took group photos, photos of the men on the trip, the women, the children and then separately the boys and girls. One of the photos taken of the girls was particularly poignant, as they decided to stand on the second landing where only their torsos were visible while their legs were hidden by the bone white colored staircase. They stood proud with their fists raised high above their heads. They instinctively marked this moment in time for themselves much like Tommie Smith and John Carlos had done during the playing of Star-Spangled Banner at the 1968 Summer Olympics. When they raised a black-fisted glove in solidarity with human rights, both Olympic gold and bronze medal winners, respectively! These teen girls, who I was now protecting, expressed perfectly their own need for equality and unity in this single powerful gesture. Certainly, no one was going to ever forget this trip.
(Glen Beck, no relation to the television broadcaster, returns next week and recurring through the summer, in this year’s series highlighting the powerful impact of the Brooklyn Anti-Violence Coalition-sponsored annual heritage tour in The South. The journey, with guide Taharka Robinson and Bruce Green, encourages youngsters and their guardians to learn about their history in an experiential approach that brings back to life the standards, tenets and values that drove the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Beck’s journey continues next week on the way to OTP’s June 13th celebrations of Juneteenth themes framed by the journals of the young people and adults who attended the “Rediscovering Lost Values” tour. BG)