SECTION TWO

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COLUMN SEVENTY-ONE, MAY 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 Al Aronowitz

EULOGY FOR MY FATHER


(Photo by Myles Aronowitz)
(Copyright - 1998 Myles Aronowitz)

As I watched my father gasp and choke out his last breaths, the pain and confusion that swept me reached so deep that I heard myself calling in words I hadn't used for years. "Daddy?, I was crying, "Daddy, What's wrong Daddy, Where are you hurting??

"My stomach?, spat one tremor, and he turned away still shuddering with pain.

When my sister and I were young we called our parents, Mommy & Daddy. But as I got to a presumed adulthood, I modified that address to "Dad". It seemed, I guess, more mature.

But that final moment, made me reach back frantically, for that little boy again. Because somehow I felt that becoming the boy again would restore my father to the life long presence and image I still keep of him

Dreading, I guess the  knowledge his death at 92 gave me. That with his passing I must now become an adult, A grown man. Because whatever you think, as long as our parents are with us, we are their children. So I would call relentlessly in my blinding sorrow, Daddy! Daddy! Until he had disappeared! Gone forever!

I guess this reckoning remains so strong, because I am already 67 years old. In a life filled with challenge and confrontation. I have brought nine children in the world, so that I, myself, am a long time father, and that relationship is not strange to me.

When I lost my mother in 1988, I understood there was an intimacy a knowing of me by someone else that was lost forever. But at this loss there is another realization, even now bizarre to me. Because at 67, I have never been without a parent. A point of origin. A source of Love and shared emotion that we all who can feel the unparalleled sensitivity that binds us to those who have actually given us the gift of life, must be understood!

But now, what? Not only was one of the most precious living sources of memory and affection removed. But we could not even prove we were once fragile children with the promise of the world before us, protectively nestled in the arms of some beings we loved as intensely as life itself.

For me, Coyt LeRoy Jones, my father, was one of the measures, with my mother, Anna Lois Jones, I used to judge and understand the world & myself. I thought, for instance, that my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. I thought as well, that my father surely was one of the most intelligent persons in the world. He could even fix wagons and small airplanes, He knew facts and  stories, histories, and told jokes that obviously  were among the funniest and most wisdom filled in existence.

He used to come in at night from the post office, when he was driving the parcel post truck, and stand on the house heating 'registers? we called them, trying to get warm. And he always had a newspaper under his arm which he would give me for the pictures and the sports.

While my mother was open and vivacious, plain spoken and direct, my father with his deep voice, and giant eyes played backup and confirmation for my


'. . .certainly our struggle to know and possess these would transform the world'


mother's prescriptions. She was my social consciousness, he was my earthly guide, how I planted my two feet on the ground. If my mother nurtured my forming vision, it was my father who causally insisted that it only had value in the real world.

One thing that will always animate my deepest memory of my father, is that he had a deep love for sports. No doubt that is where I got mine, as well as most of our children, who were outstanding athletes and even now are coaches in several of the city's schools. He used to take me to see the Newark Eagles, the Black Professional Baseball team, down at Rupert Stadium, regularly.  We were present that last year when the Eagles won the World Championship of Black Baseball. I even inherited a baseball, Larry Doby, the second Afro American in the so called "Big Leagues," fouled off in 1947. It is still labeled, the date, the place, the player, and the father who grabbed it and the awed son who witnessed this grand event.

My father would take me to the old Grand Hotel on West Market Street, where the ball players hung out.  Can you imagine the wonder and amazement, as he introduced me to Doby, Monte Irvin, Len Pearson and the others who very soon would be relocated away us by commerce to the Major Leagues.

My father's name for me, until the very day he died, was McGee. That's right, appropriated from the old Fibber McGee and Molly radio show. So you see how early he began to appreciate my Literary potential. Even in his last years, when he called our house, my wife said he always asked, "Is McGee, there??

Coyt Jones came to Newark from Hartsville, South Carolina In the 20's, having to leave suddenly after a heated discussion on Civil Rights with a white movie house usher. When he applied for a job at the Post Office, and needed his birth certificate, the Darlington County Commissioner of Records, wrote him that they could not send him a birth certificate since they did not start keeping records of Black births until 1916, so they could draft them into World War 1.

But my father worked in the Newark Post Office 37 years, retiring in 1968. He was a member of the NAPE, the National Association of Postal Employees, and I still have vivid memories of going to some of their meetings. And how they would begin the larger meetings with the Negro National Anthem. I met Effa Manley, the owner of the Newark Eagles, and Tom Pettigrew, the national head of the NAPE. I was taken regularly to the bowling tournaments that his Bowling Team sponsored. The team was called The Nemderolocs, Colored Men, spelled backward.

In those halcyon days of the 40's there were always social gatherings parties, organizational meetings at our house. Bingo games and Parcheesi, together my parents were a highly sociable couple, entertaining guests, going to happy cocktail parties and belonging to various clubs and organizations that aimed to improve the lives of Afro Americans at the same time create some fellowship and good feeling.

One of those, The Student Council, an early scholarship granting organization, with some of their friends. Likewise the legendary Bridge Club actually began as a series of Bridge Playing parties these friends sponsored. I was always, with them surrounded by their friends, their gatherings, their organizations, their serious and light discussions and repartee.

And as the father is the son and the son the father, when my wife Amina and I embraced our African Heritage as Cultural Revolution for the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, at her example my father began to make, of all things, Dashikis in a small store he opened to express the new learning of Africa and Liberation.

Why this was, perhaps is this. I had never seen my father so fiercely angry as he became after Newark's 1967 Rebellion, when he witnessed the results of the beating I had been given by Newark Police.

But on the day, after the venue for my trial had been changed to Morristown and I was confronted by an All -White Jury, whom  I addressed as "My oppressors Not my peers!" and turned and started to walk out of the court, I was knocked flat by a Negro Policeman named Black, who told me "he was in my corner." Then had my bail revoked and locked up for contempt. For the first time I heard profanity leap from my father's lips as they led me away. It was at that point I think that another consciousness deepened in him that broke through his usually temperate demeanor.

I can confirm this because a short time later, when my parents were told that I would go to jail for three years with no parole, Coyt Jones said, "and if they put you in jail you should go up there and organize the prisoners to riot!"

My mother, gasping and probably shocked said, I should be careful more than anything or they might try to kill you!

One photo my father particularly was proud of was one published in Ebony at the height of the movement which showed him with his grandson, Ras, perched on his shoulder,  both in  Dashikis.

And then when my mother died, my father who had sprung from South Carolina Methodists and seldom came to Bethany became one of the most missionary of Bethany's Baptists and his passing caused, as Rev Howard said, "one of the lights of the church to go out?!

But the deepest and most important element I perceived from both of my parents and my father in his own constant but understated way, was the deep felt and continuously reconfirmed base of all this, was the family. That it was inviolable and invulnerable. That no matter what ignorance or stupidity, no matter the gross inhumanity and foolishness of this place where we lived, the greedy vainglorious deceit of national oppression, racism, segregation, discrimination, that I was told each night at the dinner table existed to humiliate and exploit us, that we were yes, Colored People, and we were intelligent, strong and beautiful.  And had always been.

And that no matter who or what might dispute this, they were fools and liars and evil. And that, no matter all of this ugliness and dishonesty and repression that confronted and surrounded us, we were never to doubt and never to submit, and that very simply one day we would prove, we colored people, that we were finally stronger than all of it. That one day, if there is truth, if there is beauty, and if they be the most universal description of God, then certainly our struggle to know and possess these would transform the world.   ##

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