The fires of the sixties cast a veil of disdain and gross contempt over these men of integrity and quiet strength – my Daddy and other area heroes.
These raging fires cast hues of red and orange shadows upon fathers that we had formerly depended upon. Suddenly they became boring, unexciting – out dated. The constraints they constantly placed upon my generation went from annoyance to anger at the world.
The flames of the 1960s claimed to offer "better fathers" ... modern ones. They were flamboyant, complete with fancy ideological footwork, and a limitless set of liberalities. Personally, the sixties explosively presented a new set of "fathers" for me as well as my community, and my brother and sisters. Equipped with erudite political jargon, enticing speech and ideologies, plus good looks that radiated strength, energy and charisma, they captured the imagination of young "daddy's girls" all around the Twin Cities, as well as around the country.
Entrapped in teenage carnality and emergent hormones, "this generation of fathers stole my heart from my Daddy.
They were the antithesis of him.
My father was soft spoken. They shouted "What we need is Black power."
My father was nonviolent and never owned a gun. They carried .357 magnums.
My father raised his four girls to be ladies. They called being a lady a remnant of the white man's culture stemming from the plantation with Miss Ann.
My father worked for civil rights with politicians. They called the President of the United States "Tricky Dick," the police department "pigs," teachers enemies of the people, organizations such as the NAACP and Urban League Uncle Tom organizations that were tools of racist white America.
They called the church and Jesus "colonialist and imperialistic" tools to sedate the people into servitude. Their outrage was not limited to the United States. They articulated solidarity with the revolutionary movements of Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Central America and every part of the world that was waging revolution against common oppressors.
It was the height of the war in Vietnam, and these new fathers vocally stood against the United States of America, and passionately on the side with the Vietnamese people.
This younger generation of 'fathers' emerged on the American scene like an invisible Normandy invasion. There was Huey Newton, whose poster I kept in my room, as he sat in a wicker chair with his head cocked wearing a black bandanna and leather coat with a Russian M-16 strapped causally by his side. There was Bobby Seale and there was H. Rap Brown. They were loud, boisterous, and in the face of all that opposed them. No marching for them. – no Siree– no begging the white man for rights. They criticized men like my father for devoting their lives for the right to have lunch next to "a honkie" a "cracker" and their message was spoken on loud speakers before ABC, NBC, BBC. They taunted the FBI and the boldly stated, "Black people will be free and by any means necessary."
Overnight – at least it seemed – my father and a generation of fathers with him had gone from being heroes to relics of a past generation ... outdated and contemptible. Soon they too had been named "Uncle Toms."
And as Daddy became smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and my afro became larger and larger and larger, my anger began to burn in unison with the fires that raged across America.
I, like most teenagers my age, wanted action ... change. And we wanted it now. My father did not have a gun in the home. I cannot remember him even once raising his voice to the level of a shout. I never saw my parents argue. His raising his hand towards my mother was unheard of.
As the fires continued to rage in the streets of America, the flames began to lap away at our little three-story home in south Minneapolis. Daddy still got up at 4 o'clock in the morning, still methodically built his landscaping business and still came home every night with the smell of sweat and sod reeking from his pores.
These young new fathers were "men of fire" who helped birth me into a new identity. I was an "Afro-American"-they told me ... an African queen. I would sneak to the political rallies on what was then my forbidden territory, the so called Near North Side or 38th Street & 4th Avenue in South Minneapolis. My Afro continued to grow and I was given Mao Tse Tung's "Little Red Book", the bible of the revolutionary movement, which I studied relentlessly. I was taught that the white man's western education had brain-washed the slave and turned him into a Negro. I joined the Black Panther Party, becoming a high school recruiter, and when I came home, I would stash the Black Panther Papers that I sold.
A pivotal moment in the sixties was when a Black Panther was transporting explosives on the newly constructed I35W expressway and an electrical storm ignited the bars of dynamite. Parts of his body were found miles away. He was labeled a martyr for "the cause" by my so-called comrades.
Though the sixties was swallowing his family whole with me at the forefront, and though he must have been terrified at what he saw in me - in the faces of his own children - Daddy never stopped working his 17-hour days.
Azaniah Little lives in Seattle. She works as a freelance writer, minister and consultant, and is currently seeking publication for her first book, "Purpose for Your Pain..."
She is the proud mother of Namibia Little who lives in Minneapolis.