I have written many articles about brothers and sisters of the past who have left their marks on our society when it comes to the economic empowerment of Black people in this country. I have written many articles about brothers and sisters of the past who have left their marks on our society when it comes to the economic empowerment of Black people in this country. Men and women such as Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, Madam C.J. Walker and Amos Wilson, all of whom, incidentally, died in their 50s. (It’s tough fighting for your people.) These giants, as well as others, hold a special place in my heart, and I will always revere their accomplishments, their dedication, their concern and love for their people, and their commitment to our economic advancement. But, Kenneth H. Bridges, my brother, my contemporary, who also died in his 50s, will occupy an even higher place, not because he did more than they did, but because I knew him.
It’s one thing to read, write and talk about those great brothers and sisters who did so much for us in years past; it’s an entirely different thing when it comes to someone with whom you actually had a personal relationship. Ken Bridges was that to me. Aside from working together on the attainment of economic freedom for our people, Ken and I seemed to have a spiritual connection that surpassed the work about which we were both so passionate. We hit it off the first day we met, each of us having driven hundreds of miles to meet.
Since that time nearly five years ago, Ken and I have spent much quality time together, either in person or on the telephone. I spoke to him the day before he was killed. I was speaking at Tuskegee University and he was closing the “deal of the century” in Virginia. We said we would follow up the next day, after we returned home, but that never happened. He was shot by a sniper the next morning (Oct. 11) as he made his way home.
Ken died working for his people, working for his family, working for his brothers and sisters in the MATAH Network. And you know what? That’s just the way he would have wanted it. We had conversations about death, and Ken would always say, “Death is something that happens in the middle of your life.” He was never afraid because he believed his transition would simply carry him to another plane and allow him to be with our ancestors—the ones I mentioned above along with many others.
This brother, this proud Black man, was so in love with his people that he literally dedicated his life to the principles upon which MATAH was built and to achieving a level of business development in MATAH that would propel us to new economic heights. He worked every day, tirelessly, sometimes losing valuable time with his children. But he used to tell me that what he was doing, he was doing for his children and for our children. He worked so hard for economic freedom because he wanted our children to have a strong economic foundation on which they could continue to build for future generations. He worked hard because he loved us; he loved YOU.
Now it is up to us to continue what Ken started. Who knows? Maybe one of us will be the next to fall, but whoever is left must keep moving forward. Ken knew, as his friend, elder and mentor, Dr. Edward Robinson, author of The Journey of the Songhai People, always told him, that with any movement it takes a “precipitating event” to push it over the top. Ken used to call it “critical mass.” Little did any of us know, least of all Ken Bridges, that the precipitating event that would thrust the MATAH economic solidarity movement forward would be his death, which if you know the entire story on how he came to be in that gas station at that time, could be called destiny.
This paragraph is for those who are MATAH. Now, what are we going to do to celebrate the life of Ken Bridges? What will be your commitment, your level of dedication, your resolve to continue the legacy of Ken Bridges? If we want to pay tribute to him and do justice to his memory and what he stood for while he was with us, we must not waver or waffle in our strugg