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1619 Project Discussion

My Father's Dream Come True?
By Blog Master
Posted on 6/4/2021 12:36 PM
Notes thanks to Sharon Jarrett

The group met by Zoom on June 4th.  There were 15 participants.  The meeting was called to order by Dick Myers.  Dick introduced the meeting speaker, Dr. Linda Pope,  who lives in Houston, Texas.  Following the introduction, Dick informed the group that the meeting was being recorded and turned the meeting over to Dr. Pope.

Dr. Pope began by telling the group that in the preparation of her talk she had reviewed family and concurrent history and had learned a lot of details about the time period.  She decided to structure her talk around the theme "Am I My Father's Dream Come True?" 

Dr. Pope began by reminding the group that of the estimated 15 million human beings enslaved in Africa and transported across the Atlantic, 10.5 million survived the journey.  Her father was a descendant of those who survived.  In May of 1980, her father told her a secret that affected her deeply over time.  Her father had been accepted onto a Pre-Med program at the University of Pittsburgh.  He deferred enrollment to serve in World War II. At the end of the war, rather than medical school, her father joined the Negro Baseball League and married in 1947.  He began his baseball career in the Quebec semi-professional league which she described as the "dispossessed players".  In 1950, he returned to the United States on the Cleveland Indians farm team.  At the time of her birth, he said "Linda will be a doctor".

The attitudes between the Canadian and US experiences were very different.  In Canada there was an integrated experience which differed in the US.  The family traveled a great deal as part of the baseball team schedule.  Their travels included both travel in and out of the US.  Eventually the family settled in Houston.

Summers were spent in Pennsylvania in the town of Library.  Dr. Pope's grandmother lived in Library and she shared happy memories of family.  She recalled learning that she was expected to "look her best and be on her best behavior".

Dr. Pope recalls 1954/55 as very significant to her family.  Four events occurred which impacted her life:  the desegregation of public schools, the loss of employment for teachers who were members of the NAACP, the murder of Emmett Till and the desegregation of public parks.

Moving on, Dr. Pope spoke to specific time periods of her life.

1959-1963

Dr. Pope report this as a good period with good family memories and a great deal of travel on trains and cars.  She began to enjoy science and began participating in Science Fairs.

1960-1961

The family moved to Houston which seemed "like a foreign country".  The city was segregated and the family was subjected to systemic and overt racism.  At the conclusion of the family's stay Dr. Pope told her father she never wanted to return to Houston.  Her father told her "don't say what you will never do...God has plans for you".

1963-1967

The family moved to Cleveland.  This period was Dr. Pope's high school experience.  She attended segregated programs and her chief memory was being blocked from participating in the State Science Fair.  

This period also saw the election of Carl Stokes, the first African American mayor of Cleveland.  Opportunities expanded within the city and her father moved into the Department of Parks and Recreation which he would head.

1967-1971

Dr. Pope referred to this as her Oberlin College experience.  The college "opened the doors to black activism" to her.  A Department of African American Studies and Afro House were founded on the campus and she shared several experiences of her personal change during this period.  She shared experiences during the riots of 1968 and her discovery of the works of black writers and activists.

1971

Dr. Pope entered her first employment at Wyatt Pharmaceuticals were she was the first African American and first female employee.  She worked for 3 years and entered medical school.  Upon graduating, she gave her diploma to her father in recognition of his desire that she become a doctor.

1980-1985

Internship and residency at Baylor.  Dr. Pope described "each rotation as a racist learning".  She recounted experiences with overt racism from physicians, professors, staff and patients.

She described her rotation at the local Veterans Hospital as most memorable as she learned "not to weaponize my position as a physician".

She reported learning more from non medical staff than medical staff.  She described the difficulty forming groups to study and for support due to her race.

Upon completing her programs of preparation, she continued experiencing systemic racial bias, particularly, as she tried to open a practice.  Five banks refused her loans.  She persisted and prevailed in establishing a domestic practice and in working internationally.  She indicated that systemic racism followed her.  She recounted being pulled over by police due to her race and the type of auto she owed and challenges in purchasing real estate that were racially based.

At the conclusion of her talk, Dr. Pope told the group "healing is not easy, but is possible".  Sharing her belief that projects like 1619 were necessary to ensure history was a comprehensive record of the experiences of each person.

She shared her belief that the psychological, emotional, economic and spiritual damage caused by slavery exist and must be addressed.  Only in doing so was it possible for each "to be who we are". 

At the conclusion of her talk, the meeting was opened to questions.  Dr. Pope was thanked for an extraordinary and deeply personal talk.  Appreciation was expressed for the time she took interweaving her personal and family history with the broader African American historical experience.

She was asked if she recalled the age at which she stopped seeing an integrated school and community experience.  She indicated she felt that happened in the move from middle to high school.  She suggested this might be related to the greater autonomy of adolescents, concerns about dating among family members.  She did share a personal example of one of her friend's, who upon being selected the first African American Class President at her school was told it would not happen again.

Dr. Pope encouraged everyone to write their personal history.  She said while hard, her family will have it for the future.

Before concluding the meeting, Dick Myers suggested the participants listen to the Terry Gross' interview with Clint Smith related to white supremacy.

To hear the presentation click on this link,Linda Pope's Reflections

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Clint Smith, who is a staff writer at The Atlantic, was recently interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. He read a poem from his recent book of poetry, which repeated the key line, "My Grandfathers Grandfather Was Enslaved." In order to emphasize the impact that this thought had on his understanding of his own family history, his recent book is an exploration that he undertook as a result of this deepened understanding. The Interview , his book How the Word is Passed, and book of poems, Counting Descent,are worth a visit.


Our next meeting will be on the 3rd Friday of the month, June 18th at 12 Noon California time. For more information on the topic will be posted here later. Subscribe to this blog to stay up to date on where our discussions our going.





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