by Otto Ringle
In the last few issues of The Pilot-Independent, I have been greatly honored by having the following words attached to the end of this weekly, “The old and the new” column: “The views and opinions expressed in the ‘The old and the new’ column belong solely to the author, and not The Pilot-Independent or an organization, committee or individual.”
I proudly use the words, “greatly honored” because, it appears the column is being read, and for that, I am extremely elated! Therefore, this week I would like to begin the column with those words! Then you won’t have to continue reading, since you may find the words a bit controversial! Now remember — the words are mine and not the paper’s or anybody else’s!
It was a month before Christmas in the year 1955. I was at the Truce Tables in Panmunjom, helping negotiate the Armistice Agreement between North and South Korea. The Korean War was over in July 1953, and for the past year and a half, the United Nations Command of the Military Armistice Commission was making certain both North and South Korea were abiding by the terms of the agreement.
Since it was close to Christmas, and we were on the verge of bringing home about 1,000 POWs from North Korea, the Rev. Billy Graham was coming to visit Panmunjom in an effort to boost the morale of those prisoners, as it had been a long time since they had been away from their homes and their loved ones.
I had also received a Christmas present from my fiancee back home, which was a 45 rpm phonograph record of a brand new release of the “Christmas Song,” made popular by the incomparable Nat King Cole. We had a small men’s chorus, consisting mostly of colored singers, which was scheduled to put on a little show for the POWs and Reverend Graham. I played the phonograph record for our director, who was also colored by the way, and he included the newly released, “Christmas Song” in the program.
I am telling you this because Nat King Cole was one of many colored entertainers from that era — Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles — just to name a few. In addition, there were also many very popular colored singing groups, such as The Temptations, The Ink Spots, The Platters, The Chantels and the Supremes — again, just to name a few. By the way, we were able to welcome most of the thousand POWs as they crossed Freedom Gate Bridge, over the Imjin River, which separates North and South Korea.
Some of them opted to remain in North Korea, as they thought they would be treated better there, than if they returned to their homes in the southern United States. Remember, this was in the mid-1950s.
Entertainment was not the only area where colored people excelled. Please consider all the black athletes, beginning with Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete of that modern era. Nowadays, most of the better professional baseball, basketball and football players are black. Our standout Minnesota black athletes include Byron Buxton from the Twins, Carl Anthony Towns from the Wolves, and Dalvin Cook of the Vikings.
Why there are even a couple of very good, colored Minnesota Wild hockey players in T.J. Brown and Earl Robbie!
And we best not forget the sport of track and field, especially that all-time, memorable, all black, Trojan 440 relay team of Simpson, McCullough, Kuller and Miller, from the University of Southern California, who ran the quarter mile in an unbelievable 38.6 seconds — a world record that perhaps will stand forever!
Black artists have also shared their work of portraying the struggles of Afro-Americans through their paintings, sculptures and other artwork. Just to name a few, there are Jean-Michel Basquiat, Augusta Savage, and Kara Walker.
Did you watch the 93rd Academy Awards the other night? Colored actors and actresses played a dominate role with Dan Kaluuya accepting his Oscar for his role in “Judas and The Black Messiah,” and LaKeith Stanfield in “Judas and The Black Messiah,” with the movie itself nominated for the Best Picture, and Leslie Odom in “One Night in Miami.”
Then there were the wonderful portrayals by Riz Ahmed in the “Sound of Metal” and the unbelievable Viola Davis for her role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The Best Song was awarded to “Fight For You” by singer-songwriter H.E.R, with an amazing background support of all black singers and dancers.
There were two segments of the 2021 Oscars that really stood out during our past year of uncertainty and unpredictability: Firstly, the award winning Best Animated Feature Film, “Soul,” where Joe Gardner, portrayed by colored actor Jamie Foxx, reminded us that we can always shape our own lives, no matter what has happened in the past. And finally, Tyler Perry receiving a standing ovation, as he accepted the Humanitarian Award and very emotionally requested, “Never hate anybody!”
Position those two segments of the program together, and you will understand the theme of this week’s “old and new” column — no matter what has happened in the past — never, never hate anybody!
The views and opinions expressed in the “The old and the new” column belong solely to the author, and not The Pilot-Independent or an organization, committee or individual.