The Great Sam Smith
Above are pictures of my Uncle Sam Smith (my dad's brother).
At age 15, my mom became pregnant with me. My Uncle Sam, realizing that my parents weren't equipped to raise me at that time in their lives, took it upon himself to help my grandmother support my mother & I, while still attending college. A few years later, he married my aunt Eleanor & they raised me during my early childhood.
After graduating college, he joined the NYPD & served there until he was injured.
Afterward, he relocated to Las Vegas and worked for the LV fire dept. He quietly moved up the ladder until he became a fire inspector and eventually a chief fire inspector. He faced a fair amount of adversity while working for the fire dept and felt that blacks were severely under hired, particularly black men, so he started a tutoring program aimed at helping black men pass the fire dept entrance exams. This led him to start a mentoring program where black students could receive assistance in getting their equivalency diplomas and applying to colleges. He also owned & operated an all black book store, Native Son, in Las Vegas. It wasn't a fancy place by any means, but it was a place where you could go to learn from the elders (The Gathering) & discuss the topics of the day. It was also a place to go if you got into trouble and needed help turning your life around. He did all this for no money, and very little recognition, yet he is personally responsible for assisting hundreds in getting their HS diplomas, college degrees, or being hired by fire depts across the country.
Known affectionately as the Oracle or the Mayor of the Bistro, my uncle loved his people & keenly understood the often crippling handicaps black people are faced with every day. He was one of the strongest, most generous people I've ever known. He was also one of the strictest, most disciplined people I have ever known with regard to education, and did not suffer fools gladly. He did not care for excess & could not tolerate those who did not want to learn, or strive to be the best they could. He demanded excellence at all times from his children and from his students. When people would ask why he was so tough, he would answer "Because the world is tougher, especially on black men. The only thing we can use to our advantage are our minds and we must be educated to do that." "Reading, writing and arithmetic" was his motto.
He was a man of few words and yet, he was a man of many words. He loved words and spent the better part of most days reading. He sat with politicians, paupers and everyone in between and treated all with dignity and respect. His most fervent wish was simply to uplift our race, one mind at a time, thereby changing our world view and in turn the worlds view of us. He was a great man, a born teacher, a mentor to many and something of a legend to most. To me he was a hero, and I tried to tell him so as often as I could.
There is no man or woman who has achieved greatness without some great form of sacrifice. The brunt of that sacrifice is usually bourne by the loved ones and families of those who have given their lives in service. To my cousins Marshall, Mercedes and Assata, know that you are part of the great legacy of a man who helped to save and shape hundreds of black lives. He did this because he wanted the world to be a better place for you. For all of us..
RIP Uncle Sam. Thank you for all that you've done for all of us.. I love you and I will never forget. We salute you for the great legacy you leave behind, because you are our family, because we love you, because all black lives matter, a fact that you made crystal clear to all, in the life you chose to live, because you were hell bent on saving and uplifting every black life that you could, because we are standing on your shoulders, because attention must be paid..
Assata Smith Sybil Johnson Lincoln Sessoms William Saunders Maurice Sessoms Shannon Wayt Sessoms Jenny Douglas Trevor Johnson Myeisha Rogers Chris Parks Ernest Johnson NAACP-LV Virginia M. Washington
Someone was laid to rest today
And Attention must be paid
We fear death
For in death We fear We shall not be remembered
But I can never forget
Though I myself will be forgotten in time
Through the ages
We have learned We do become immortalized
In the memories of the ones we leave behind
With this knowledge I now, can finally speak on it
Because attention must be paid
The ancestors near, far and wide
They must be given their just due
And we must say
I remember you
Someone died and so
Attention MUST and will always be paid
I and your children will live on in your name
You will see the world through our eyes and through our childrens eyes after us and so on
We will honor you with love as We call your name Sam Smith
And We will never forget