Muhammad Ali Earl and Bighouse Emauel Steward Jim Brown Danny Glover Doug Williams Bert Sugar
UNPARALELLED UNCOMPROMISED UNFORGIVEN UNSUNG
HILLCREST CHILDREN'S CENTER SATURDAY PROGRAM:
THE HOUSE HAROLD BELL BUILT!
In the 1960s Children's Hospital was located on 13th Street between W and V Streets, NW. Hillcrest Children's Center was located on 13th and W Streets (Old Turner's Arena). Hillcrest was an affiliate of Children's Hospital. The building housed emotional disturb children. The children served were overwhelmingly white from the Maryland suburbs and upper NW DC. During the week white parents were seen in and out of the facility and on the weekend they would pick-up their children and take them home. On Mondays they would bring the children back.
I was the Roving Leader (Youth Gang Task Force) assigned to the Cardozo/Shaw community. My time was spend one block over on 13th and V Street working out of Harrison Playground and Harrison Elementary. I paid little or no attention to Hillcrest Children's Center.
The Hillcrest complex did not sit well with blacks on the block. More then anything else, the facility was a mystery to them. They wanted to know what the hell was going on, but didn't know who to ask! I was of no help, I knew little or nothing about Hillcrest and how it served the community.
On school days I walked pass the complex and through the neighborhood. I was more concerned about the knuckleheads I would encounter hanging out in the U Street corridor. This was not a good sign. I decided to approach Mr. Cousins, the Harrison Principal. We discussed what remedies we could use to combat these acts of truancy.
My thoughts, why not try to use athletics as a motivational tool? The athletic team concept helped me to improve my school attendance and discipline, why not use the same vehicle for these knuckleheads (I know a knucklehead when I see one, because I was one). I would notice after school the young men who should have been attending Harrison during school hours would migrate to the playground.
With the permission of Mr. Cousins and Roving Leader Director, Stanley Anderson, I held tryouts for the Harrison touch football team on Harrison Playground in the evenings after school. They were some of the greatest young athletes I have ever been associated with. You name the sport, football, basketball, baseball, track and field, most could run like the wind. I wished that I could have been that talented at their young age.
Getting them to tryout for the team was easy, but getting them to improve their attendance and their grades was not going to be an easy chore. The rules of participation were; regular school attendance, maintain a C average, respectful behavior (no profanity) and be on time for school and practice. Easier said then done, some of my best players refuse to abide by the rules. Several I had to dismiss from the team or I benched them in favor of a not so talented teammate, but as we started to win without them, they changed their rebel ways.
I convinced other elementary schools in walking distance of Harrison to participate, Garrison and Grimke principals liked the concept and came aboard. The idea went over so well other elementary schools wanted to participate and the program went city-wide. With my coaching genius, Harrison Elementary won the first City Wide Elementary Touch Football League Championship. The team was called "The Harris Hustlers."
Harrison Rec Center won the first City-Wide Police/Community Relations softball championship, I was the coach, but this time the participants were playground tough guys and Third District cops who though they were just as tough. It took several practices before Andrew Johnson my high school teammate and police officer could convince his colleagues to take off their guns during practice.
The league was the brainchild of the late Mayor for Life, Marion Barry. The league was designed to help improve police community relations and it did for a minute.
In 1968 all hell broke loose after the gun related death of our Prince of Peace in Memphis, Tn, Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember NFL Hall of Fame and Green Bay Packer player Willie Wood and I standing on the corner of 9th and U Streets after having lunch at the in-crowd hangout of the Che Maurice restaurant. It was a beautiful bright sun shiny April 4th day when someone rode by in a car and yelled "Harold Bell they just shot and killed Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis."
Willie and I were in a state of confusion because we didn't know what to believe until some friends exited from Che Maurice and confirmed that Dr. King had been shot. Our boss Stanley Anderson requested that we stay on the streets because we might be able to save a child. I was told to report to the Third District HQ to meet with Assistant Chief Timon O'Bryant.
I arrived at the precinct and was ushered down to the basement for Roll Call. There I met with Chief O'Bryant and he introduced me to his command. The next words out his mouth and actions stun me. He told the officers to watch my back because I would be on the streets with them trying to keep the peace. He then gave me a police badge to assist me in getting through police and military barricades. My next question "where is my gun?" The Chief's response, 'Harold I don't have the authority to issue you a gun. I don't think any of the looters will be shooting in your direction.' I was not really worried about the looters, it was some trigger happy cop that worried me.
When the armor trucks and military personnel had cleared the U street corridor, there were only three businesses left standing, Lee's Flowers, Industrial Bank of Washington and Ben's Chili Bowl. The Chili Bowl was the only business allowed to stay open during the riots, thanks to an assist from Chief U. S. Marshall in charge Luke C. Moore. After the White House had ordered all businesses to shut-down, Luke intervene on behalf of Ben's explaining to President Lyndon B. Johnson that Ben's needed to stay open for first respondents, doctors, nurses, police, fire departments, military personnel and youth advocates like myself, we needed some place to eat. President Johnson relented and allowed Ben's to stay open.
Out of the rubble and ash, Kids In Trouble emerged. The administrators at the Hillcrest Children's Center reported having problems with neighborhood youth and some adult residents harassing staff and family members of their patients. A friend on the staff of Children's Hospital recommended that they talk with me about the problem. It was here I became known as "The Child Whisper!" The 1300 block of W and V streets NW, the two-block radius was known as my domain.
I met with the Hillcrest Director, Dr. Nicolas Long and his staff to talk about their neighborhood problem. The tour of the facility was an eye opener for me, I could not believe there was a indoor swimming pool, in door and outdoor basketball courts, overnight facilities for patients and a cafeteria. It was like I had found a full service Marriott in the ghetto. The results of the meeting, Dr. Long wanted to open the facility to kids in the neighborhood on the weekends (Saturday only). I thought this was a great ideal, but there was a catch, they wanted me to run the program. I said, "Thanks, but no thanks!"
In hindsight, my reasons were purely selfish. I was a paid starting WR for a minor-league football team, the Virginia Sailors. They were an affiliate of the NFL Washington Redskins. There was no-way I was giving up that job, I still had dreams of playing in the NFL.
I had a sit-down discussion with my wife Hattie, my brother Earl and my friend Andrew Johnson, both DC cops. We reached a compromise and figure out a way to open the facility on Saturdays to neighborhood kids without me missing a game. All out of town games, Hattie, Earl and Andrew would oversee the program. All three were known to the kids in the neighborhood. Home games were played at night and presented no problem, because Hillcrest operating hours were from 12 noon until 3:00 pm,kick-off was 7:00 pm for all home games. The Sailors provided tickets for the Hillcrest kids to attend all home games.
There were a lot of first to come out of Hillcrest Saturday Program; the longest on-going community based Christmas Toy Party started at Hillcrest Saturday Program (1968-2013). The first Santa's Helper was my Virginia Sailor teammate LB George Kelly. The first ever students bused in from Tacoma-Park Seven Day Adventist Church from Tacoma-Park, Md. to mentor inner-city children. Students from Howard and UDC were nowhere to be found. Today, high school and college students can earn credits toward graduation for volunteering in the community (unheard of before 1968).
The first ever NFL Films nationally televised (CBS) community promo was video taped at Hillcrest in 1972. The video shown NFL MVP RB Larry Brown and LB Harold McLinton of the Washington Redskins teaching water safety to inner-city kids.
Dr. Nicolas Long and his wife Jodie are two of the finest human beings I have ever known. Integrity and honesty were their hallmarks during all the community First accomplished at the Hillcrest Saturday Program, they had my back. They inspired the closing of my radio sports talk show, "Every black face you see is not a brother and every white face you see is not your enemy!"
The Price of Gun Violence in America:
Since Sandy Hook, a Kid Has Died by a Gun Every Other Day!
Kids Who Die - by Langston Hughes
This may provide a measure of the changing sameness and shameness in our history, Mississippi burning, Ferguson, LA, Chicago, Charleston, Baltimore, DC, NY City and the beat goes on in the war against black men in America. The Angelo Herndon, reference in the poem, rings familiar it describes a young black Georgian in the 1930's. He was arrested under a state statute for insurrection, because he protested unequal justice and segregation laws while championing an interracial workers movement.. He was summarily sentenced to life in prison, though released on appeal following massive black protests. He later moved to Harlem where he joined the Communist Party, becoming a writer and spokesperson for its causes.
This was not one of Hughes' most famous poems, but it now energizes the moment while embracing renewed meaning and relevancy.
This is for the kids who die, Black and white, For kids will die certainly.The old and rich will live on awhile, as always. Eating blood and gold, letting little kids die.
Kids will die in the swamps of Mississippi organizing sharecroppers, Kids will die in the streets of Chicago organizing workers. Kids will die in the orange groves of California telling others to stick together.
Whites and Filipinos, Negroes and Mexicans, all kinds of kids will die who don’t believe in lies, and bribes, and contentment and a lousy peace. Of course, the wise and the learned who pen editorials in the papers, and the ladies and gents with Dr. in front of their names, white and black.
Who make surveys and write books will live on weaving words to smother the kids who die.
And the sleazy courts and sleazy attorneys, and the bribe-reaching police, and the blood-loving generals, and the money-loving preachers, will all raise their hands against the kids who die, beating them with laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets, to frighten the people.
For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—and the old and rich don’t want the people to taste the iron of the kids who die. They don’t want the people to get wise to their own power to believe an Angelo Herndon, or even get together and listen to kids who die—Maybe, now there will be no monument for you except in our hearts.
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in swamp or prison grave. swamp or the potter’s field, or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht.
But the day will come—you can be sure yourselves that it is coming—when the marching feet of the masses will rise for you with a living monument of love, and joy, and laughter. And black hands and white hands clasped as one, with a song that reaches the sky—the song of the life triumphant.
Through and for the kids who died.
By Earl Tildon / August 9, 1993
Who is Harold Bell? From where I sit, a man obsessed with youth and children’s plight. He walks swiftly away from compromise, aggressively wanting things right. Who is Harold Bell? From where I sit, he is an arrogant rebel with youth as his cause. He keeps raising their issues without fear or pause.
Why does Harold Bell do what he does, and why does he do it his way? It may be because many others who did it are longer doing it today. It may be that those who have risen to the heights don’t quite remember any more. For once they have left the place of their birth they throw away the key that once opened the door. Harold Bell is no diplomat; perhaps he doesn’t know how the game is played! Perhaps he is naïve to think that “Superstars” are coming back where he stays. Could it be that it is not vogue to court the poor, or not want a black child to die, or maybe it is politically incorrect to ask the question why?
Maybe Harold Bell speaks up too much, or perhaps he is far too crude. Or maybe he has spoken out against the establishment, or maybe he has just been rude. But Harold Bell didn’t invent rudeness nor does he speak as loud as some, for leaders have known through the ages that justice goes to the beating drum.
Harold Bell perhaps understands that silence somehow appears to be consent. And he knows that our oppressors flourish when our heads and backs are bended. He also knows that children maybe homeless or parentless or in pain. He also knows that their need to survive is real and to reach out to our children the World gains.
Thank God Harold Bell has access to the media so that we can read and listen to his candid outspoken word. Thank God for readers and listeners who understand motivation is what we need. Thank God for those like Harold Bell, who speak out against “Kids killing kids,” crack, heroin and speed.
It is hard for me to understand why some may dislike Harold Bell! He is such a nice guy it is hard to believe some would turn him off while little children die. There may have been a word that even Harold Bell could say that would have caused the listener to save a child along the way.
But such is life we can’t always please, so why expect it of Harold Bell? He did not create today’s problems and who are we to judge we do so little well? At least he is study on the course and he is consistent from year to year. We need more Harold Bells who understand our plight and “A Grieving Mother’s Tears.”
"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and say and do nothing.--Albert Einstein
When I received the sad news of the passing of Dr. Frances Cress Welsing in an e-mail from Dr. Al-Tony Gilmore, I had to step away from the computer and take a deep breath. Back in the day she was like a sister I never had.