Black in America: Remember the CNN series in 2008

Black in America: Remember the CNN series in 2008

Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin (right) meets Major Eldridge Williams, who flew with the famous Red Tails Squadron.

Of course I would not know what it is actually like to be Black in America. When I was a child growing up in Boston, I was beaten up a few times by a bunch of Irish kids who happened to hate Jews. I asked one of my schoolmates at the time what caused this hatred. His reply: “You killed Christ.” Although I don’t recall ever doing such a thing, I did apologize to him.

Some years later here in Miami I was visiting a toy store in the old Cutler Ridge Shopping Center. I happened to be on my motorcycle at the time and when I went into the store carrying my helmet I received some strange looks. As I would walk down each aisle I noticed someone at the end of the aisle cautiously looking at me.

Once I realized this I began to play games with them and switch from aisle to aisle as quickly as I could until they eventually came up to me and asked me to leave my helmet with the cashier. Naturally I was offended. Apparently I was stereotyped as some type of Outlaw motorcycle rider and not to be trusted.

This gave me just a small idea of what it must be like for many black youths who are viewed by many as criminals before they have even have a chance to prove that they are just like anyone else.

I recently had the privilege of talking to one of the few remaining pilots, Major Eldridge Williams, who flew with the famous Red Tails Squadron which I have written about in the past. When he told me about his efforts to become a pilot for the United States Army Air Force it affected me deeply.

This man was an excellent athlete in his day, had better than perfect vision, and all the qualities necessary to become a pilot. He was constantly rebuffed and sidetracked for all kinds of unproven medical deficiencies, one of which involved his eyes, which as I said were better than perfect. He finally succeeded in receiving his commission as a flying officer and was so good at what he did that he was selected to train future pilots for the Red Tails, one of the most highly decorated squadrons in World War II.

I recently participated in a parade through the West Perrine area in honor of Martin Luther King. (By coincidence it also happens to be my birthday and perhaps someday someone will have a parade for me as well. Yeah, sure!) I have participated in this parade for several years and occasionally I am asked why.

Firstly, I have no immediate plans of running for any political office, and if I did it would not include the area in which the parade took place. Frankly I had nothing to gain by participating. I did however receive some rewards that go way beyond a few votes or contributions, which will stay with me forever.

During the parade my name was called out many times by people in the crowd, and there were crowds, thanking me for coming to this event. One fellow asked me if there was anything I could do to help the people in West Perrine. I informed him that I had no direct control over anything that took place in that area, which is an unincorporated part of Miami-Dade County, but that if he had any specific wants or needs to contact me and allow me to pursue them for him.

Again he thanked me profusely for simply having an interest in his community. I was not the only elected official in this parade; there were several others who also gave their time and effort and should also be given credit, but I must tell you that the feeling I had when I came away from this was something that you cannot buy or secure in any other way, and I would like to express my thanks for the people who allowed me to participate.

There also was a business expo at the Palmetto Bay village center for the merchants in this area, which was extremely well attended by both vendors and visitors — all in the name of Martin Luther King. It looks as though his dream is really coming true.

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