Harry T Moore: Shadow Warrior

“Florida means land of flowers 

It was on a Christmas night.

In the state named for the flowers 

Men came bearing dynamite…

It could not be in Jesus’ name 

Beneath the bedroom floor

On Christmas night the killers 

Hid the bomb for Harry Moore”

Langston Hughes

 

Who was the first martyr of the Civil Rights movement? Martin Luther King? Malcolm X? Medgar Evers? I asked several people outside Florida if they knew who Harry T Moore was and almost all had no clue. I once passed on an opportunity to attend an annual observation at his gravesite, his name and that of his wife Harriette meant nothing to me. I won’t miss next time. The Florida State Conference of the NAACP holds an annual memorial for Harry and Harriette Moore, I’ll update to include the dates when available for any interested in joining me.

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Both Moore’s were teachers in Brevard County, about 45 miles West of Orlando. Harry was active in the NAACP, becoming the Florida Executive Secretary. His weekends and whatever time he could spare was spent fundraising, speaking and soliciting memberships. In 1946, both Moore;s were fired from their teaching jobs of twenty years, due to Harry being labeled a “troublemaker and Negro organizer.” The nearest employment Harry could find as a teacher was in Palm Beach County, two hours to the South. They rented a room in a private home while maintaining the 3-bedroom home Harry had built in Mims, Florida. That home sat in the middle of 11-acres of land, set deep in an Orange Grove.

Years earlier, Harry had sent a letter to the National office of the NAACP, informing them of plans to sue Brevard County Schools for equal pay for black teachers. This got the attention of lawyer Thurgood Marshall who came to Florida several times regarding the case, often staying with the Moore’s as there were few hotels a black man could stay in. Harry Moore was as soft-spoken as Marshall was gregarious yet they made a good pair. To offset his own dry speaking manner, Harry trained his teenaged daughter Evangeline to exhort the crowds after his more stoic message.

Moore became involved in another case with Marshall. One involving four Groveland, FL black men, falsely accused of the rape of a white woman. Moore used this case to raise funds throughout the state and wrote letters, incessantly. He wrote local papers, local politicians, and he wrote the Governor. Florida had more lynchings per capita than any other state and Harry T Moore would not keep quiet, he wouldn’t let it be. He organized protests, conducted mass meetings, and gave speeches. He was a pain in the ass to those who wanted the notoriety to die.

In the “Groveland Four” case, two of the defendants were convicted and sent to the Florida State Prison in Raiford, FL. After Marshall won them a new trial. Sheriff Willis McCall was transporting them back to Groveland when he pulled over, ordered both prisoners out and shot both men, killing one. His deputy pulled up, found one man still living and shot him a second time. The man survived to tell his story. It is of note that the FBI withheld ballistic evidence that would have proven those events but the Sheriff was exonerated and continued his reign of terror another 21 years before losing an election, under investigation for the murder of yet another black prisoner.

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On Christmas night in 1951, Harry and his immediate family had dinner at his brother-in-laws before returning home about 9pm. At 10:20pm, after everyone had settled in their beds, when a bomb placed below Harry and Harriette’s bedroom went off. The children and their grandmother were alright. They found Harry and Harriette in their bedroom covered with debris. The family rushed them to a medical facility in Sanford, FL. Harry’s head bleeding into his mother’s lap.

Harry was declared dead on arrival. Harriette recovered enough to visit her husband’s body at the funeral home, then succumbed herself. She had told an Orlando Sentinel reporter, “There isn’t much left to fight back for” and “My home is wrecked. My children are grown up. They don’t need me. Others can carry on.”

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In his last letter to Governor Fuller Warren, Moore wrote:

“We seek no special favors, but certainly have a right to expect justice and equal protection of the laws even for the humblest Negro. Shall we be disappointed again?”

There was no justice for Harry Moore. The FBI initially closed the case in 1953 and it was reopened multiple times over the years. In 2006, Governor Charlie Crist declared the case solved, blaming four dead Klansmen. He acknowledged having “no new evidence” yet indicated they were the most likely perpetrators. Some believed Sheriff Willis McCall to be behind the bombing but the truth will likely never be known. Between 1951-1952, 40 black homes were bombed throughout the South. Many refused to bow to racist traditions, some were innocent bystanders. Harry T Moore was denied the recognition he deserved in his lifetime and even after his death. He was a true Shadow Warrior.

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

The Dreamers

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

 

Coming October 7th: New Shadow Warrior

Never before has Enigma In Black honored anyone posthumously as a Shadow Warrior. This month’s selection is someone we should all know or know better. A story that needs sharing.

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

The Dreamers

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

 

The Dreamers (DACA Recipients): Shadow Warriors

When “Shadow Warriors” was conceived. It was intended to shine a light on those who are doing good works that are not yet recognized by greater society. The name is more appropriate for this month’s recipients, who have figuratively and sometimes literally lived in the shadows as they fought to remain in the country they know as home. The “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children are September’s selection for Shadow Warriors. 787,580 young people have been approved since the program started. Donald Trump and many in his party would send them back to lands they barely know.

Trump Immigration

Photo: washingtontimes.com

To have qualified for the DACA Program, begun by President Barack Obama in 2012 because Congress refused once again to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Applicants had to have come to the US before age 16 and lived here since June 15, 2007. Despite the claims of Jeff Sessions that the program created a “mad rush” to our borders. Only children already here for 5-years were eligible. No one over the age of thirty when the Department of Homeland Security enacted the policy in 2012, was eligible.

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Photo: looper.com

The program is perceived as one benefitting those from Mexico and Central America. Indeed, most of the applicants came from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. But Korea comes next and not far behind China, India, and the Philippines. To qualify you either had to be a student, have graduated, obtained a certificate of completion from a high school or gotten a G.E.D. Also accepted were honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or US Armed Forces. They could not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three misdemeanors of any kind. They could not otherwise pose a threat to “National Security or Public Safety.” If they were convicted of a felony they were sent back, gang activity got them sent back. They underwent extensive background checks and if they submitted fraudulent applications… sent back.

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Photo: vox.com

The Dreamers have done well in our high schools, colleges, and universities. Because of the program, they were able to get drivers licenses and better jobs. They contributed more in Social Security Taxes than they withdrew. They pay taxes. Our economy is better off with their presence yet some politicians insist that they go.

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Photo: youtube.com

Daisy Romero was 9-years-old when she came to America with her parents. She registered for DACA on October 15, 2012. She filled out extensive forms with information about herself and her parents. Her father lost his job in Mexico when the plant where he was a supervisor closed. He stayed in America to provide a better life for his family.

Daisy went to college, ironically, at Donald Trump’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. The school is one of a few dozen “sanctuary schools,” a status that has come under fire from those who would see that practice end. DACA did not grant her a pathway to citizenship, it allowed her to live without constant fear of deportation. Those fears have returned. The government has all her information because in holding up her end of the bargain. They always know where to find her. The government’s promises to her are being broken.

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Photo: ewa.org

Juan Escalante has a blog where he talks about the life of an undocumented immigrant. In,  An Open Letter To Trump About DACA, From A Dreamer, Juan talks about coming to the States from Venezuela in 2000, escaping the Duarte regime Donald Trump just sanctioned because of the conditions there. Juan is a graduate of Florida State University and a fierce advocate for the undocumented. He fights for DACA students living in a state to be able to pay In-State tuition rates like their neighbors. He wants the dreamers to be able to “work and study” without being targets for deportation.

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Photo: fsunews.com

The dreamers believe in the concept of what America stands for, more than many Americans. Many have American citizen younger brothers and sisters. They’ve overcome obstacle after obstacle and through perseverance, they will beat the rescinding of DACA as well. They will succeed because of their own battles and because they have allies. 76% of Americans think they should be allowed to stay and 58% believe they should have a path to citizenship. Protests were seen instantly around the nation including Trump Tower and Jared & Ivanka’s home. While there is a faint hope that Congress will act within the six-months provided by Trump and the Courts may step in. The Dreamers will find a way, for they are Warriors.

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Photo: aclu.org

Featured Photo: Reuters.tv

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Coming September 7th, New Shadow Warriors

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

Zain Jacobs

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Featured Photo: patch.com

Zain Jacobs: Shadow Warrior

Zain Jacobs was always older in her soul than physically. She began reading at three. At seven, she was writing about serious topics. Inspired by a 15-year-old cousin that was given LSD and jumped to her death, Zain focused on the impact of drugs on the community. She also wanted to donate her eyes to Stevie Wonder, believing that if he could write such beautiful music while he could not see, what might he do if she could give him sight?

Her maternal grandmother was named Zain also. There was no time in memory when she wasn’t taking in children in need of a place to stay. She led several of her church ministries and was always feeding or housing people.

Both her parents were activists in addition to their respective careers. Zain’s living room contained photos of various historical figures, Leontyne Price and Andrew Young to name a couple. There was a book with a signed inscription to her parents from Coretta Scott King. Her mother and father were founding members of the Circle of Friends which gave one of the first large donations to fund the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence in Atlanta, GA.

Their church, First African Baptist Church in Savannah was once a stop on the Underground Railway. The pews were built by slaves and contain markings in their native African languages. Holes in the floor are shaped in the form of a Congolese Cosmogram representing birth, life, death, and rebirth. There is a subfloor beneath the lower auditorium floor that slaves traveled through before heading North. Perhaps these physical ties to slaves and Africans have led to the current connection that Zain feels to the land of her ancestors?

After high school, Zain matriculated to Savannah State University and studied business.  She planned to head her dream Fashion House as both Executive and Designer. With the proceeds, she would finance her passion to write independently about issues concerning her people, to give them a voice. She continued her writing for the school newspaper and was reminded of the power her words could have. She was responsible for the focus on and ultimate resignation of a tenured Professor, known for his racist attitudes. She changed her major to Journalism and English, still writing about drugs along with alcohol abuse and civil rights issues. She served others indirectly but felt the pull of her lineage to get more directly involved.

After graduation, she returned to her childhood home of New York, pursuing interests in law, history, and politics. She’d given up her dream of the Fashion House after she graduated from SSU. In what is an apparent fixation with what appears on her tombstone. She decided she didn’t want it to say, “Here Lies Zain, She Designed a Hell of a Skirt.” Her life working for corporations also left her wanting. She imagined, “Here lies Zain… Employee.”

Living in Queens, Zain took the city bus and subway to and from Manhattan. She witnessed something that changed her perspective. She saw a group of teenage girls describing a fight during which they kicked and beat a pregnant girl. They saw nothing wrong with their actions and attitudes. Nobody on the bus challenged them to do better… to be better. She decided at that moment that she would take on the mission of helping girls who needed a different path.

She went to a local private school and said, “I’ll clean toilets if you give me one class to teach!” After reviewing her credentials, they decided cleaning toilets were unnecessary. She was given a job at the school that allowed her to teach that class. It was a busy time during which she became certified as a teacher and met her husband and future father of her two children.

Teaching the class soon wasn’t enough for Zain. Over a period of time, Zain presented the concept of a “Rites of Passage” program for girls to some of the educational giants she had come to know in New York.  Writer and historian Yosef Ben-Jochannan, activist Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Professor Clinton Crawford at Medgar Evers College.She proposed her concept in hopes they would direct her to someone else to lead it. They laughed and said, “If you identify the problem, you have an obligation to be the solution,” adding, “Get to work!” She began the program in the first public middle school she taught at.

The “Blooming Lotuses Rites of Passage Group,” was based on an African model of teaching values. They met three times daily to accommodate conflicting student schedules with some attending one, others all three. They met during her planning period, lunch hour and after school. When Zain arrived home, she had to do the planning she didn’t get done during the allocated time. There was seemingly never enough time to get everything done that was needed but she found this period of her life empowering as opposed to draining. She said, “I needed them as much as they needed me!” Zain is still in touch with many of her early students. Many took Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Almost all went on to college with some getting advanced degrees. Not one of her girls had a child out of wedlock.

After a time, she moved to another School District in Long Island. She not only brought the Blooming Lotuses Program with her, Zain began conducting parenting classes so that she could begin to affect whole families. She began the Rites of Passage – Literary Program. Most rewarding to her was when the early participants of the first programs, returned to give back and reinvest in the community that supported them.

Zain Jacobs: Shadow Warrior

Photo: Tim Alexander

She furthered her own education, getting dual Masters of Science Degrees in Child Youth and Family Services and Youth Development & Human Services Administration. Zain was laying the foundation to be able to administer the recently launched P.I.L.L.A.R.S. 4 Success, LLC. The acronym stands for, Power In Life Learning And Resilience Strategies. Pillars offers organizational support, community education such as G.E.D./Post Secondary Prep, parenting support and mentoring.  She provides workshops on Cultural Competence. Zain works with trafficked youth, addicted youth, many on probation or otherwise involved with the justice system.

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Her clients often find her through word of mouth. They got help and tell someone else who needs it. She gets referrals from groups and families. All of five foot two and a half (she was adamant about the half), she goes alone into neighborhoods where her potential clients live and work, day or night. She literally meets them where they are.

Zain is a reluctant Shadow Warrior. She shuns the personal spotlight and wants to focus on her charges whose circumstances are “nobody’s business.” She said, “I never heard my grandmother repeat to another person how she helped someone.” There is no sense of aggrandizement. “I like where I am in my humility.” It gets tough sometimes, her empathy both blessing and curse. “Sometimes I can’t allow myself to feel the pain of those I serve in order to keep going. Other times I can’t serve without absorbing their pain to process my approach in serving them!”

Zain Jacobs was recently honored by the Black Charlotte Business Coalition as, “Servant Leader of the Year.” For now, she wants her epitaph to read, “She was Zain… one who found optimism in service and service in optimism.”

Tolitha Henry was one of the last of her New York Lotuses. When asked for a comment about Zain she responded with a book. Among the things she said:

“Mama Zain helped me form my identity as a Black woman.  Prior to meeting her, I battled with low self-esteem, depression and not understanding my purpose on this earth.  She suggested I participate in a writing competition; the requirement was to write what I thought was my purpose. I wrote that it was to give back to my community. I would not have known that I would receive, a nurturing, first-hand experience on what my purpose looked like from my ninth grade English teacher. She took me under her wings, she fed me what it means to be a black woman, how my dark skin translated to beauty, that I descended from a lineage of tenacious people, and how to self- love. She invited me to join Rites Of Passage and from that, I learned about sisterhood and simultaneously what motherhood looked like outside my familial roots. Furthermore, when ever someone asks me now who influenced you, who helped you to become the woman you are now I always, always go back to Mama Zain. I am a proud black woman, who celebrates other black women and loves my community because of the love and chance she took in investing in me. For that, I am absolutely grateful.”

What Zain does is not quantifiable in statistics. She measures her success in the progress and productive lives of her former mentees. She worries about them as she does her own children. “Have I prepared them for every situation possible? She wonders if anything were to happen would it be because of something she failed to impart? Fear not Zain for you have prepared them all well. Even those who experience negativity have been trained how to get back up and try again. That is a success… and why you’re a Shadow Warrior.

Each month Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. Don’t miss any by scrolling down and clicking “Follow”. Please share so that we can bring these Warriors and their work out of the shadows! Suggestions are welcome for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

George Cooper

Glory Edim

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Coming August 7th, New Shadow Warrior

Each month, Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. We highlight people and organizations doing great work that have yet to receive national recognition. Don’t miss any by  following this page.

Please share so that we can bring these Warriors out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Past Warriors:

George Cooper

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

Featured Photo: patch.com

George (GEO) Cooper: Shadow Warrior

George Cooper is the first “Shadow Warrior” I’ve personally known before writing about. We attended Fisk University together and knowing his history is important to knowing George. In those days, Fisk had just over 2,000 students. There were those hardly anybody knew and those that knew everybody. George was in the latter category. He had a big afro, was always smiling and was deadly serious about his music, the Jubilee Singers and Black history.

Part of that history is the story of Ella Shepherd. She was born into slavery on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Plantation in Nashville, TN in 1851. While she was young, her father was able to buy his own freedom for $1,800. His former master broke a promise to let him buy Ella. It took the threat of her mother saying she’d “take Ella and jump into the river than see her a slave” before she was allowed to be sold to her father for $350. Her mother, still in slavery was taken to Mississippi.

After marrying another slave woman whose freedom he purchased. Simon Sheppard took his family from Nashville, TN to Cincinnati, OH after a race riot in 1856 made it impossible to pay his debts. His family could be seized as assets and sold back into slavery. In Ohio, Ella attended a colored school and began studying music. She was a prodigy and soon had her own piano. A rarity for black children.

After Simon died in 1866, Ella helped support the family by  performing at local functions. She was seen by a prominent white music instructor who agreed to provide her advanced training. Ella was his only student of color, entering thru the back door between the hours of 9 and 10 PM.

In 1868, Ella accepted a teaching position at a school near Nashville in Gallatin, TN. She took her meager earnings and entered the “Fisk Free School for Blacks”, which in 1866 became Fisk University.  She became the music teacher at Fisk. Becoming the only Black staff member at the school until 1875.

Because of financial difficulties at the school. Fisk’s Treasurer organized a bunch of students to sing for money. After some success locally, George White was given permission to form a group and go on National Tour in 1871. Ella was one of nine students selected for the original Jubilee Singers where she also served as pianist and assistant trainer.

The first tour raised $20,000 which purchased land for the new campus. The Jubilee Singers was often the only source of revenue for the school and their concert tour was extended to seven years. They raised over $150,000 in America and Europe, financing the construction of Jubilee Hall which still serves as a women’s dormitory. Sheppard was the backbone of the Jubilee Singers and later began lecturing throughout the South forming Jubilee choirs. She later found her mother and a sister and brought them to Nashville.

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George would not mind that I used part of his story to tell that of Ella Sheppard. Her story is intertwined with his. George Cooper was a Jubilee Singer while at Fisk and toured to some of the same locations as Ella. I hesitated to use the word “was” as George certainly “is” a Jubilee Singer as that’s not something that ever left his soul. He’s active in the Jubilee Singers Alumni (JSA) and part of the JSA Advisory Board. The legacy of Ella Sheppard is strong in George. He once wrote of her, “If not for her, her intellect, her spirit, and her musical genius, Fisk would not have survived. George White started the Singers but Ella Sheppard nurtured the seed and grew it into the powerful force that it became. Those who don’t know of her, I ask that you take some time today and discover a woman who essentially gave birth to American Music. Ella Sheppard-Moore! Fiskites, a TRUER Daughter, there never was!” In 2009, George founded the Ella Sheppard School of Music (ESSOM) in his home town of Chicago.

geo3I’ve neglected to this point to mention George’s accomplishments as a musician. Although he got his start as part of the All-City Choir in Chicago, later joining the Jubilee Singers at Fisk. It’s playing the piano for which he’s better known. His nickname is “Maestro” and his mastery of classical music has taken him all over the world. The world class pianist has recorded for Polygram and Capitol Records and toured with Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Peabo Bryson, Natalie Cole and his home girl Chaka Khan. He did a series of instructional videos on, “Secrets of the Chopin Etudes.” He’s performed as a solo artist and part of the group of Fiskites R&B band, “Autumn” and heads the GIII Jazz Trio. He’s presently the Director of the Lutheran School Gospel Chorus, is the Assistant Minister of Music for the church he grew up in, St. Mark AME Zion and Minister of Music at the Congregational Church of Park Manor. Like Bo Jackson, George Cooper knows music. But it’s not his playing or singing that makes him a Shadow Warrior… it’s his teaching.

At the school he founded, the Ella Sheppard School of Music, he gives free music lessons to children 2-14. He solicited friends, his church and other sponsors to keep the school going. One friend, Tamera Fair, (a fellow Fiskite) provided space for the school at one of the Premier Child Care locations she owns and said this about George.

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“Not often in life do we personally have the chance to meet living angels, living legends. We read about them. Now we “like” and “follow” them. I am in a select class that shares time and space with one, Maestro, George Cooper. Since the moment we met in the yard of Fisk University, I knew Geo was a talent for the times, correction for all time. I had no idea that we would work so closely together in the future. Geo was looking for a home to put his music school. I had far more space than I needed. He agreed to put the school in the building and has provided music lessons to hundreds of children in the west side of Chicago for over eight years. Many of the students have continued their study in music and are following their teacher’s footsteps and becoming accomplished pianists. His passion shows in every note he hits and every lesson he gives to every child he touches. I feel honored to call someone so great, friend!”

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Had this been all he’d accomplished, George would have provided a great service but he does so much more. When I knew George he had not yet become Geo (Gee-Oh) so I’m slow to embrace the name but Geo also an Ambassador for the HHW (Henry Hendricks Weddington) School for the Performing Arts. HHW is an open walls school serving children from all over Chicago. They audition for acceptance and get paid for their participation. Geo has been teaching Master Classes, doing arrangements and composing for them for years. I watched a recent video HHW performing one of his arrangements,  Njiculela, Es Una Historia, I Am Singing   which instantly dispels everything you may have assumed about Chicago if you only read the news.  At least 5 of those students have gone on to Fisk University and become Jubilee Singers. In writing this story I found that George was always recruiting for Fisk and the Jubilee Singers… always teaching. George said of his efforts to bring music to youth, “I’ll keep going ‘till my breath runs out!” I won’t wait until then to say thank you!

There are a few things that are the essence of who George is. Chicagoan, musician, Fiskite, Jubilee Singer, a member of Omega Psi Phi, father, teacher and in his own way Historian. One of his arrangements and compositions for HHW was a Black Heroes History Medley. He’s always looking for teachable moments whether talking about music, sports, Fisk or our nation. A true believer that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. George will keep you and the children he comes in contact with informed of their history. For that reason he’s a Shadow Warrior.

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Each month Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. Don’t miss any by scrolling down and clicking “Follow”. Please share so that we can bring these Warriors and their work out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Glory Edim

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez